Thousands of Dutch farmers protested on Saturday against the government’s policies to reduce nitrogen emissions, warning they will put farms out of business and affect food production.
Hundreds of tractors from across the Netherlands could be seen driving to the event in The Hague ahead of regional elections this week, and more than 10,000 farmers were in attendance, according to the Reuters news agency.
Protesters accused the Dutch government of forcing farmers off of privately owned land in order to appease Brussels, and carried banners reading “No farmers, no food” and “There is no nitrogen ‘problem.’”
“We are fighting against a corrupt and unjust government,” Eva Vlaardingerbroek, a prominent campaigner in defense of the farmers, told attendees. She spoke of a government that “drives our farmers from their land” and which has “turned on its own population.”
“For centuries, our farmers have produced food for millions of people worldwide. And instead of what those liars in The Hague claim, they have done so in a responsible and sustainable way.”
“But our cabinet doesn’t care about nature. They have simply created a lie to steal our farmers’ land,” she added.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s administration has vowed to take radical action to meet its ambitious target of halving the country’s nitrogen emissions by 2030, and has identified the country’s large agriculture sector as being the main culprit due to its large livestock count and use of fertilizers.
Last year, the government announced plans to reduce livestock numbers by a third, while farmers have also been told their land could be subject to compulsory buyouts.
Agricultural workers have staged several demonstrations against the government policy, blocking motorways and supermarket distribution centers in mass protests last year.
“These reductions are so severe that those rural communities will be totally devastated economically,” said Sander van Diepen, a spokesperson for the Dutch agricultural and horticultural association, LTO Nederland, in June last year.
Henk Staghouwer, the former Dutch agriculture minister appointed to see through the plans by Mark Rutte, resigned in September last year after a tumultuous summer fraught with mass demonstrations, admitting that upon reflection he was not “the right person to oversee the tasks in front of me.”
Regional elections for the Dutch Senate are scheduled to take place on March 15.