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Dutch farmers face herd reductions to combat pollution

January 1, 2023
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Why this is important to Wisconsin businesses: Wisconsin’s dairy industry expertise could help Dutch farmers lessen the impact of their government’s proposed nitrogen limits.

Livestock farmers in the Netherlands staged protests after they were told they will have to reduce their herds by one-third over the next eight years as part of a plan to slash the European nation’s nitrogen emissions.

Netherlands has one of the highest nitrogen pollution rates in Europe. The Dutch government’s goal is a 50% cut in emissions by 2050. The plan, announced in June 2022, also affects manufacturing, construction, and transportation, but agriculture will be hardest hit. The government says agriculture is responsible for half of the nitrogen pollution, with dairy farms as a major contributor.

In the atmosphere, nitrogen oxide emissions from farm animal manure can help cause acid rain, while nitrogen-based ammonia used in farm fertilizers can wash into lakes and cause algae blooms that kill marine life.

Thousands of farmers from across the Netherlands have staged protests over the government’s proposals—in some cases, riding their tractors and snarling traffic, according to Reuters News Service.

“These reductions are so severe that those rural communities will be totally devastated economically,” Sander van Diepen, a spokesperson for the agricultural organization LTO, told Reuters.

The Dutch provinces of Noord-Brabant, Gelderland, and Overijssel are expected to face the biggest challenges because of their proximity to Natura-2000 areas, a network of protected lands and waterways across Europe. More than 160 locations in the Netherlands are part of Natura-2000.

The government proposes to reach its goal by buying out farmers, relocating farms that are close to vulnerable natural areas, or making farms more sustainable. If farmers don’t agree to the plans voluntarily, forced buyouts could be considered, according to GlobalData’s Energy Monitor.

As Wisconsin is the second-largest dairy producing state in the U.S., farmers and agriculture specialists in Wisconsin may be able to provide expert advice and new technology that can increase efficiency and decrease nitrogen pollution for their counterparts in the Netherlands, and thereby help the Dutch government avoid imposing extreme measures.



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