200 farmers come forward for anti-pollution buy-out scheme

A protest in a field in Friesland against the government's nitrogen reduction plans. Photo: Depositphotos

Some 200 farmers have so far come forward to say they would like to be bought out under the government’s newly launched scheme to slash nitrogen-based pollution.

The scheme, which entitles farmers up to 120% of the value of their property, was launched two weeks ago and described by minister Christianne van der Wal as “wildly attractive”.

Officials say the current figures are not a reliable indication of interest in the scheme, because it was first announced in March and many farmers have been waiting in the wings to sign up.

Farmers close to Natura 2000 zones are the main target of the buyout scheme as the government seeks to cut levels of nitrogen compounds, such as ammonia and nitrous oxide, by 50% before 2030 and 74% by 2035.

In total, between 800 and 900 highly polluting farms will have to sign up for the scheme to reach government targets. Some 3,000 major polluters and 8,000 other farms, will qualify.

More than half the most polluting farms are in Gelderland, where much of the livestock industry is concentrated.

The government has allocated €975 million to fund the scheme, equivalent to €325,000 per farm if everyone who is eligible applies, but ministers accept that the majority will choose not to give up.

A further €500 million has been set aside to buy out the 8,000 farmers not considered to be “peak polluters” but who still would like to close down.

Other measures to combat nitrogen pollution on farms are likely to be delayed until after a new government has been formed.

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