Friday 14 August 2020

Farmers Defence Force gives government ultimatum to change rules on animal feed

A tractor at an earlier farmer protest in The Hague. Photo: Molly Quell

The Farmers Defence Force protest group has apparently failed in its bid to give the government an ultimatum of July 21 to scrap its plan to reduce protein supplements for cattle.

A government spokesman has told national broadcaster NOS that it has noted the ‘ultimatum’ but said that the emergency environmental protection law has been passed by both houses of parliament.

In an attempt to reduce nitrogen-based emissions, the government has ruled that farmers should restrict extra protein given to milk cows, to reduce the nitrogen compounds in their manure.The measure is part of a series of changes to limit nitrogen-based emissions, including restricting speeds on motorways to 100kph and stopping construction projects.

Agriculture is a major source of harmful emissions, and by reducing the protein in feed, the government wants to give a green light to building 75,000 homes to help combat a severe housing shortage, reports NOS. If passed by the European Commission, the rule should be in place from September 1 until the end of the year.

However, farmers have proposed a voluntary measure to reduce the overall quantity of protein supplements by 3%, rather than limits and fines. Since the start of July, the Farmers Defence Force has organised demonstrations up and down the country, allegedly causing dangerous situations. Tractors have been used to block distribution centres, and demonstrations with farm vehicles were banned in Drenthe, Friesland, Groningen and IJsselland.

Farmers have protested that insufficient protein could harm their animals’ health long term and that without using supplements, they would have to overfeed cattle to give them enough protein. Less protein is also associated with less milk production.

Last week, environment minister Carla Schouten agreed that independent scientists should assess the potential impact of the government’s and farmers’ proposals on animal health. But a spokesperson for the FDF told public broadcaster NOS: ‘Despite a well formulated proposal, her message to the farmers was: “I’m putting through my measures and going on holiday, so deal with it.”‘

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