Saturday 08 August 2020

Tractors banned from latest farmers’ protest against anti-pollution rules

Tractors on the Malieveld in October. Photo: Molly Quell

Several thousand farmers have staged yet another demonstration against the government’s plans to limit nitrogen pollution, this time outside the offices of the public health agency RIVM.

Farmers travelled to De Bilt, near Utrecht, by car on Wednesday after the provincial administration banned tractors from the roads. The agency’s headquarters were blocked off by military vehicles to prevent farmers gaining access to the building, while the demonstration was staged nearby at De Biltse Rading.

Tractors have been a feature of previous protests in The Hague, both on the Malieveld and outside the Binnenhof parliament complex in the city centre. A single tractor from Halle, in the Achterhoek region, was allowed to be parked beside the podium from which Farmers Defence Force leaders addressed the crowd.

Other farmers tied toy tractors to the roofs of their cars or attached trailers loaded with bales of straw.

The farmers picketed the RIVM in protest against the agency’s methods for calculating nitrogen dioxide levels, which have guided new laws on agricultural pollution.

A study carried out for the government found that the farming sector was responsible for 45% of all nitrogen dioxide emissions. The farmers produced their own report in March that put the level at 25%, but the RIVM said that figure was based on inaccurate data.

‘Assassin’ Schouten

Speaker Kees Hanse told the crowd farmers were being singled out by the cabinet while other industries such as construction and aviation were allowed to carry on polluting. ‘[Agriculture minister] Carola Schouten is an assassin. Our industry is being quietly exterminated,’ he said.

Groups of farmers also staged go-slow protests on several main roads and motorways around the country, including the A6 in Flevoland and the A28 in Overijssel.

The local council in De Bilt put a limit of 2,000 people on the demonstration, but said fewer had turned up. The event was briefly stopped while the crowd was asked to spread out to maintain the 1.5 metre social distance required by Dutch coronavirus rules.

 

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