Sunday 26 January 2020

Farmers vow not to blockade supermarkets in next round of protests

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

Farmers’ leaders have pledged not to blockade supermarkets during their next round of protests against government plans to cut nitrogen oxide emissions.

Lawyers representing Farmers Defence Force (FDF), which has organised a series of protests in The Hague and provincial capitals, said the idea of a food blockade was ‘fake news’ and had never been the group’s intention.

FDF was taken to court by the food retailers’ organisation CBL, which was seeking an injunction to stop farmers parking tractors outside distribution centres. CBL took legal action after farmers ignored a deadline on Friday to clarify if they intended to target grocery supplies.

FDF did not disclose what form the protests on December 18 would take, but said it would not involve blockades or violence. The group’s lawyers said there would be ‘dynamic’ protests involving tractors moving between several locations.

Farmers’ leaders also attended a breakfast meeting on Monday with prime minister Mark Rutte and agriculture minister Carola Schouten to discuss the nitrogen rules. The government has been forced to tighten up the regulations following a judgment by the Council of State in May that invalidated thousands of building permits on environmental grounds.

Schouten said the farmers had presented alternatives to the government’s plans during the breakfast meeting in the Catshuis in The Hague. ‘We went through them in minute detail and said what we can do as a cabinet,’ she said. ‘We moved closer to each other on many topics.’

The meeting also covered comments by FDF chairman Mark den Oever in the provincial assembly in Noord-Brabant last week, when he compared the situation of the farmers to the plight of the Jews in the Second World War.

Rutte said the issue had been ‘forcefully’ discussed before adding: ‘And I’m going to leave it there.’

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