Finance fishing boats

Dutch farmers are strongly protesting plans to drastically reduce cattle numbers

Thousands of Dutch farmers have blocked highways and food distribution centers to protest plans to cut cattle numbers by a third. Photo: Twitter

THOUSANDS of Dutch farmers have blocked supermarket distribution centers and burned bales of hay in protest against government plans to cut the number of cattle in the country.

Earlier this month, the Dutch government announced plans to halve the country’s nitrogen production by 2030 – with manure and livestock-produced fertilizers in the firing line. The government estimates that this could reduce the number of cattle heads by 30%.

The government has planned to buy out some farmers and cancel the production rights attached to their land or help finance their relocation. Vice Prime Minister Carola Schouten said end of agricultural operations reduced nitrogen emissions.

“The future of agriculture is a hotly debated issue in many homes right now and not just because of nitrogen pollution,” Ms Schouten said.

“Some farmers want to stop, but many others want to continue. The government wants to make both of these things possible. The money will be available for farmers who want to continue and innovate. Farmers who wish to terminate their activities will also benefit from government assistance.

But the plan has not gone down well with the country’s farmers, who have staged large and sometimes violent protests. Sacks of food were set on fire and cows were brought to protests – with farmers saying the laws would mean sending them to the slaughterhouse.

Images of empty supermarket shelves have emerged on social media, with farmers blocking trucks from leaving food distribution centres.

The fishing community has supported the farmers by blocking port activity with their boats and effectively disrupting ferry services.

The future of the plan is uncertain, with the Euro News website claiming that Dutch and European courts have ordered the Dutch government to fix the nitrogen problem. The website says high-intensity farming of cows, pigs and other animals has made the Netherlands Europe’s biggest nitrogen emitter.