Did you know there’s still a Boer War going on?
No, I’m not talking about the war that took place more than 120 years ago in South Africa. I’m talking about the global war against the farmers, playing out in countries like the Netherlands. It’s a war where governments and animal rights activists, such as Greenpeace and Wakker Dier, fight against the farmers. But… The farmers are fighting back.
Last year, the Dutch farmers drove en masse the highways with their tractors (the Canadian truckers were their example), blocked supermarket distribution centres and stood on doorsteps of politicians to protest the halving of their livestock numbers. It was not just the farmers protesting, but also the fishermen and greenhouse owners.
The reason for the protests is the nitrogen plans of the Dutch government. It wants to significantly reduce nitrogen emissions and close 3000 farms. The government and animal activists want to give the land back to nature. This will affect hundreds of thousands of people who are working in the farming/fishery/greenhouse industry, including transport and distribution.
The Netherlands is the second largest food exporter in the world. The government plans are causing great distress. The majority of the people in the Netherlands support the farmers and many fly the Dutch flag upside down. In history when a ship at sea had an emergency situation, they turned the flag upside down to show crew members from nearby ships they needed help.
Many farmers, especially in the south and east of the Netherlands where there are many nature reserves, have to halve their livestock numbers to comply with environmental regulations. According to the proposed nitrogen policy, farmers close to nitrogen-sensitive nature reserves should even quit completely. These are businesses that have been in families for generations. The government threatens to expropriate dairy farms if they do not want to cooperate in the buyout. The farmers are very upset for several reasons. There is great doubt, for example, whether nature really suffers so much from nitrogen. They also doubt that farmers are responsible for 40% of nitrogen emissions. The standards the Netherlands uses for the amount of nitrogen a nature reserve can handle, are already many times stricter than in all other European countries. The standards are so strict that even if all farmers disappear from the Netherlands, they will still not be met.
Although the agricultural sector has already made many proposals to achieve nitrogen reduction, the government, animal rights and climate change activists are still not satisfied. There is little space for technical innovations, while this is allowed in industry, aviation and traffic. As a result, farmers feel as though they are not taken seriously and are being treated unequally. This war has been going on for years now. The effect of the unrest and uncertainty, caused by a lack of willingness from the government to reasonably discuss the future, has caused the suicide rate among Dutch farmers to grow to alarming heights. In the meantime, more and more citizens join the protests. They believe the Dutch government does not listen to the people on other fronts as well. The people suspect a double agenda (think World Economic Forum), in which the government is not out to improve nature, but is out to acquire cheap farmland for housing. They fear all of the Netherlands will be filled with cities, roads and parks full of windmills and solar panels and that there will be hardly any space left for food production.
Political opposition parties are fiercely opposed to government policies. They mainly describe the nitrogen problem as a paper problem. While hard clashes were taking place last year between police and farmer protesters in various places, the government wanted to deploy a mediator who should calm things down a bit. The Dutch people had another idea. A new political party, the BBB (BoerBurgerBeweging/FarmerCitizenMovement) was formed. Many people voted for this new party. While there were 16 parties to vote for in the spring of 2023, the BBB got 16 seats (from the 75) in parliament. They received 20% of all the votes. Other parties opposing the government are e.g. PVV (Partij voor de Vrijheid) from Geert Wilders (4 seats) and FVD (Forum voor Democratie) from Thierry Baudet (2 seats).
The process to come to an Agricultural Agreement (Landbouwakkoord) with LTO (Land- en Tuinbouworganisatie) was stopped on June 21, 2023. The LTO didn’t want to discuss the problems anymore and the other political parties thought it wasn’t fair to discuss the problems further without the largest agricultural organization.
With the fall of the cabinet in July and Prime Minister Mark Rutte stepping down, the CO2 policy still will be a headache dossier, but Agenda 2030 seems off the table. The next elections will be on November 22, 2023. Like in the last elections, there’s a need for lots of volunteers to check if the counting was done right. Last time it made a difference.
As the Dutch farmers were encouraged by the Canadian truckers, and even carried the Canadian flag on their tractors, we should be encouraged by the farmers in the Netherlands. They proved that unity will make a difference. Don’t think what’s going on in the Netherlands will not happen in Canada. The same WEF plans the government in the Netherlands is trying to implement, will be implemented here if we don’t stand up against them.
Nettie Leeflang holds a Dutch passport.