Tuesday 10 December 2019

Farmers stage new motorway protest ahead of talks with Schouten

An earlier protest on the Malieveld in The Hague. Photo: Molly Quell

Farmers picketed motorways across the Netherlands on Monday in the latest stage of their ongoing protests against planned new rules to limit nitrogen pollution.

Queues of tractors were parked on slip roads in a move designed to keep up the pressure on agriculture minister Carola Schouten, who is holding talks with farmers’ leaders later in the day.

Protest group Farmers Defence Force said the latest protest was designed to ‘flex our muscles’ and show a united front against the cabinet’s plans. Construction workers also took part in the protest.

The agriculture sector is likely to be heaviest hit by the plans to reduce nitrogen dioxide and ammonia emissions, which follow a Council of State judgment in May that the existing regulations are not strict enough.

Farmers presented an alternative set of plans last week that form the basis of Monday’s talks. The group, Landbouw Collectief, said the reductions could be achieved through voluntary changes to farmers’ working practices rather than measures ‘imposed by the government’. Landbouw Collectief is calling on the government to set up a €2.9 bn fund to finance the programme.

The government published the first draft of its proposals two weeks ago, which include reducing of the maximum speed limit on motorways to 100 km/h during the daytime. The cabinet says urgent measures are needed to prevent further delays to building projects.

Schouten told the NOS Radio 1 Journaal she wanted to ‘let the farmers’ voices be heard’. She described the Landbouw Collectief proposals as a positive step, but would not be drawn on whether she could incorporate them into her own strategy. ‘Let’s hold talks first, look at what they’ve come up with and how it relates to our ideas,’ she said.

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