A Victory for Dutch Farmers

Dairy cows may have been put at risk by the Dutch government’s efforts to fight climate change.

After a long battle, farmer syndicates feel relief as the Dutch Government put a halt on a regulation that aimed to decrease Nitrogen emissions at the expense of their livestock’s health and farmers’ pockets.

Farmers were put between a rock and a hard place by Deputy Prime Minister Carola Schouten’s efforts to enforce a new Nitrogen reduction policy, which aimed to change dairy cows’ diets by reducing their protein intake. According to Farmer’s Defense Force spokeswoman, Sieta van Keimpema, feeding costs would have skyrocketed by approximately € 30,000 euros and cows would have been put at great risk of developing health problems.

If the new regulation had passed, farmers would not have been able to feed their cows leftover corn feed. Instead, they would have had to opt for synthetic feed, which would have put their animals’ health at risk, according to van Keimpema. Farmers would not have been able to rely on leftover maize corn, which is used by some in order to balance cow digestion and introduce natural protein into livestock’s diets. This kind of corn is not widely preferred by consumers – it is usually used to make popcorn and surplus amounts are reserved for feeding purposes. It helps farmers balance feeding costs while keeping their dairy cows healthy by introducing protein into their diets in a natural way.

The regulation would have stipulated for dairy cows to have been given different types of mineral supplements in order to synthetically balance their systems and reduce the amount of Nitrogen produced by their digestion and excrement. Aside from the added cost for purchasing such supplements, animal experts claim that both dairy cows and their calf’s life would be at risk due to this new non-natural diet. 

According to van Keimpema, this would have put animal farmers in a very difficult position, as the animals’ health and added financial strain of purchasing food from third parties was made worse by already existing law, in which farmers are not allowed to sell animal products from animals that are ill. If the adjustment to the new government mandated diet put strain on an animal’s system and made it sick, then farmers would have had to cope with not making any money out of that particular investment. This could have caused many farmers to go out of business.

The farmers’ outrage boiled over in July, when investment costs suddenly jumped with the combination of health threat to livestock. Tens of tractors invaded the Northern provincial capital of Groningen city center. Police failed to stop the wave of dairy farmers determined to express their outrage over the proposed feeding rule.

On the 20th of August, the Farmer’s Defense Force and the Dutch Farmers Union along with one other farmer’s organization and two independent farmers stood before court in a motion to dismiss the proposed regulation. 

The Dutch Government denies the fact that the court case in August had any relevance to the dismissal of the proposed law. Bertine Moenaff, general press officer for Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA), claims that the regulation was withdrawn after a study found it would not decrease emissions to the degree which regulators had hoped it would.

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