Dutch farmers vs greens: why it matters

Dutch farmers have won a battle. But can they win the war?


Eva Vlaardingerbroek

Eva Vlaardingerbroek

29 April 2023

9:00 AM


It’s not often that regional ballots in the Netherlands capture the attention of the international media. But last month that is exactly what happened. On 15 March, the so-called ‘provincial elections’ were held. Although technically these are regional, they also indirectly determine the composition of the Dutch senate – and, if the ruling parties lose their majority there, the chances of being able to pass legislation become very slim.

This time, however, the stakes were higher than ever – because, as incredible as it may sound, the Dutch government has turned against one of the most lucrative, efficient and remarkable groups in our society: the farmers.

The government, a four-party coalition led by Prime Minister Mark Rutte and his People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), has decided that 30 per cent of all cattle farms need to be closed by 2030 in order to halve nitrogen emissions – which it says pose a threat to the Dutch environment, as protected under the European Union’s ‘Natura 2000’ regulations. Apparently we have a ‘nitrogen crisis’ because the gas causes certain plants to die or grow in areas where EU bureaucrats have decided that they shouldn’t.

Dutch farmers will be forced to either sell their land to the state now or face expropriation later. If the destruction of Holland’s farming industry is carried out in the way the government plans, there will also be consequences for the world’s food supply. Although we are not a big country, we are the second largest exporter of agricultural products in the world, after the US. It’s a remarkable position to hold, but if it’s up to our leaders we won’t have that title much longer.

The attack on farmers is part of a larger conflict between the authoritarian green agenda being pushed by our government and the silent majority paying for it all, but whose opinion is never asked. Dutch voters – many of whom aren’t usually overly political, but who understand that our farmers are feeding our nation and the rest of the world – are growing tired of globalists’ policies to ‘save the planet’ with synthetic meat, edible insects, solar panels and wind turbine parks.

And so on 15 March, the elections resulted in a landslide victory for the BoerBurgerBeweging party (BBB) – which translates as ‘the Farmer-Citizen Movement’. The BBB won 17 out of 75 seats, making it the largest party in the senate. Rutte’s VVD won only ten. It was an unprecedented result, given that this was the first time the BBB was running for senate seats. It was also, in words of the party’s founder and leader, Caroline van der Plas, a ‘big fat middle finger’ to the establishment.

Van der Plas is an unusual figure in the Dutch political landscape. A journalist and former member of the Christian Democrats, she frequently criticised her old party for not doing enough to represent the interests of the agricultural sector and the countryside. Three years ago she founded the BBB after tens of thousands of farmers protested in the Hague in response to the Rutte government’s announcement of its environmental plans. She’s currently the party’s only MP in the House of Representatives after winning her seat during the 2021 general elections – and has gained such large support for her insurgent party in a relatively short time because of her ability to discuss difficult topics in a down-to-earth way. She is rarely fazed by her opponents.

Following its shock win, the BBB is facing huge pressure from both the Dutch government and the EU. On election night, Christianne van der Wal, the ‘minister of nitrogen’ (what a world we live in!) had the audacity to declare that, despite the BBB’s victory, ‘there is no choice but to move forward’ with the nitrogen policies and expropriation plans. Two weeks later, the European Commission – an unelected body– proclaimed that ‘continued vigilance is needed to ensure the Netherlands will meet its emission reduction commitments’.

The government could, therefore, cite the EU’s response as the reason it has to press ahead with its highly unpopular policies. In reality, it is still as wedded to the idea of a nitrogen crisis as ever, whatever the European Commission might say.

Van der Plas, then, is in a highly difficult position. How will she keep her promises to her electorate when neither the government nor the EU are willing to budge? If she doesn’t deliver, BBB voters will see her as a traitor; if she doesn’t compromise, the ruling parties will do everything in their power to depict her as an unreasonable extremist.

It’s a delicate balancing act. Already there are BBB supporters who worry that she is wavering. One cause for concern is that she doesn’t officially dismiss the nitrogen crisis narrative. Instead, she argues for the use of more reliable models to calculate nitrogen emissions and for more time to implement regulations. Moreover, Frans Timmermans, Ursula von der Leyen’s deputy in the European Commission and the mastermind behind the European Green Deal, seemed a bit too pleased with her after they met in the Hague recently, calling their talks ‘encouraging’.

Yet the fact that Van der Plas has never explicitly dismissed the government’s crisis claims could be part of a shrewd, long-term strategy to make her acceptable in the eyes of more voters. She’s perceived as a moderate voice in her party and is therefore a potential unifier in a divided political landscape. It’s not improbable that after last month’s results the cabinet will not survive its term and the general election that is scheduled for 2025  will have to be brought forward. Based on the current polling, BBB would become the largest party in the House of Representatives; and Van der Plas would become Holland’s first female prime minister.

But if all she does is manage to push the 2030 agenda back to 2035, then her credibility will suffer lasting damage, not only in the eyes of the farmers, but also in the eyes of the electorate. At least 3,000 farms would still be expropriated – something she has said she’d never accept. And this wouldn’t be the first time we’ve been fooled by politicians full of hot air.

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Published by Nelle

I am interested in writing short stories for my pleasure and my family's but although I have published four family books I will not go down that path again but still want what I write out there so I will see how this goes

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