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Dutch government angers farmers with tough emission goals

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) – The Dutch government unveiled goals on Friday to drastically reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides to protect the environment, a plan that would lead to major upheavals in the Netherlands’ multibillion dollar agriculture industry and has already angered some farmers.

Calling it an “unavoidable transition”, the government mandated reductions in emissions of up to 70 per cent in many places close to protected nature areas and as high as 95 per cent in other places.

The ruling coalition earmarked an extra EUR24.3 billion to finance changes that will likely make many farmers drastically reduce their number of livestock or to get rid of them altogether. Farming is a key sector in the Dutch economy, with exports worth nearly EUR105 billion last year. But it comes at a cost of producing of polluting gases, despite farmers taking steps to reduce emissions.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte conceded that the plan would hit many farmers hard.

“Of course, it has enormous consequences. I understand that, and it is simply terrible,” Rutte said. “And especially if they are businesses handed down in the family who want to proudly continue.”

Provincial governments across the Netherlands now have a year to draw up concrete plans to achieve the reductions outlined in the goals released on Friday.

LTO, an organisation representing 35,000 farmers, called the targets “unrealistic”.

A group representing angry farmers already has called for a demonstration in The Hague later this month to protest the proposals.

Past protests by the agriculture sector have seen hundreds of tractors clogging roads around the country and gathering on a park in The Hague. Some farmers did not wait and drove their tractors in protests on Friday night.

Some thousand of farmers converge on The Hague, Netherlands. FILE PHOTO: AP
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