Billions have been set aside for nitrogen policy, but that money from the cabinet has not yet reached the provinces. As a result, it is not possible to take steps quickly, provincial officials tell NU.nl. “There are farmers who want to stop, but we don’t have the money to buy them out,” says deputy Peter Drenth van Gelderland. “We have asked the minister to speed up this.”
What has happened since the presentation of the nitrogen plans?
- On 10 June, Minister Christianne van der Wal of Nature and Nitrogen presented her plans to reduce nitrogen emissions in agriculture. By 2035, those emissions should be halved.
- The plans led to great unrest among the farmers.
- A delegation went to Van der Wal’s house last Saturday.
- On Sunday, a majority of VVD members voted in favor of a motion to change the nitrogen policy, the cabinet is sticking to the plans.
- The CDA group wants fundamental changes to the plans.
- Rabobank director says in the Financieele Dagblad that a year for making plans for nitrogen reduction is “unfeasibly tight”.
Discussions have already taken place in Brabant with the so-called ‘peak loaders’, livestock farms that emit large amounts of ammonia. The province had already reached agreements with a number of them to stop. Only: in the meantime, new regulations were announced, after which the entrepreneurs concerned postponed their decision. “It all takes forever and that worries us,” says deputy Erik Ronnes of the province of Brabant.
His colleague Peter Drenth from Gelderland agrees. “Every week we have farmers who say: this is the ideal time to stop. They have no successor, or see no opportunities to develop further. And then I have to sell no, because the finances are not available.” The provincial administrators have asked Minister Van der Wal to release money quickly. “She is working on it, we hope to hear something before the summer,” says Drenth.
NU.nl spoke on Friday with the nitrogen deputies of Gelderland, Overijssel and Brabant, the provinces that have the greatest task when it comes to nitrogen reductions.
Week full of emotions for minister and deputies
A week after the presentation of the nitrogen plans, deputies of the twelve provinces and minister Christianne van der Wal met for the first time last Thursday. They had all had tumultuous days. On Saturday, Van der Wal spoke barefoot at her house to angry farmers, on Sunday a majority of the VVD members present voted in favor of a motion calling for changes to its nitrogen plans. The deputies spoke daily with angry and worried farmers.
Provincial officials criticized the plans in the media last week. Deputy Peter Drenth van Gelderland said in the Gelderlander that no farmer will be forced to stop, while the minister did not rule out that possibility.
In Overijssel, deputy Gert Harm Ten Bolscher called the plans “in many cases unrealistic, not attuned to the local situation and unfeasible.” He announced “to stick to his own plans”. Bee Buitenhof the Brabant deputy Ronnes expressed the feelings of farmers when he said that the plans had arrived “like a sledgehammer” and were regarded as “a cold calculation”.
Despite the sometimes harsh words that had fallen in the media, the meeting at the ministry on Thursday went smoothly, says Deputy Drenth. According to him, the “mood wasn’t that bad at all”. Drenth: “When proposals are criticized, people always immediately think that there is a good deal. There are differences of opinion, of course, but that’s the way it should be, right?”
Provinces do want to ensure less nitrogen
The media coverage makes it seem as if the provinces are putting their heels in the sand. In reality, all three deputies see the need to achieve nitrogen reductions. “I see nature in Gelderland declining,” says Drenth. “Something has to happen”.
Deputy Ten Bolscher from Overijssel may use big words in the media, but at the same time he expressly states that he does not reject the imposed nitrogen reductions, Overijssel only wants to implement them in its own way, an “own plan in which the nitrogen reductions are realized, in collaboration with all parties, with perspective and in such a way that the countryside remains liveable”.
Ten Bolscher and the other deputies have been preparing for these reductions for two years now. We have plans ready for a number of areas, such as the Peel or the Brabantse Wouw. There is no time to lose. We hold kitchen-table discussions with farmers about their future prospects, such as innovating, extensifying, switching or stopping,” says Ronnes (CDA) of the province of Noord Brabant.
A plan within a year: realistic or not?
Minister van der Wal requires the provinces to come up with detailed plans for nitrogen reductions within a year, i.e. no later than 1 July 2023. but Commissioner Ten Bolscher finds that very tight. “That’s not realistic. And there will also be plans for water quality and plans related to climate change. Why can’t we do it all at once?”
Colleague Ronnes from Brabant has fewer problems with the term of one year. “It’s a very short span of time, but it’s premature to say it can’t.” The Gelderland deputy Drenth also thinks so: “It is a tight schedule, but we have to do it. I am more of a glass half full than half empty. You have to put pressure on a process, otherwise nothing will happen.”
Source: NU by www.nu.nl.
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