Jan 20, 2023 at 12:36 Update: 3 minutes ago
The European Commission threatens to abolish an exception for Dutch farmers more quickly, sources from The Hague and Brussels report to NU.nl. Minister Piet Adema (Agriculture) has urgently left for The Hague to discuss the disappearance of this manure advantage in the Council of Ministers.
For years, Dutch farmers have been allowed to spread more manure than other European farmers, provided that the water quality does not deteriorate as a result. This is because they have been given an exceptional position by the EU: a derogation.
Last year it was announced that this advantage will disappear, because the water quality in the Netherlands is deteriorating. Manure contains nitrogen and phosphate. These substances can pollute surface and groundwater.
The government made agreements with the European Commission in Brussels about a transitional period of three years. The derogation would be phased out in steps. From 2026, Dutch farmers must comply with the same rules as their European colleagues.
Adema was in Berlin on Friday for the Grüne Woche, an important agricultural fair. When the news from Brussels became known, he left in a hurry for The Hague.
ChristenUnie wants more time for farmers
In exchange for that transitional period, the Netherlands had to meet a long list of conditions. These include mandatory unplanted buffer strips and the use of so-called catch crops. This is a crop that is grown after a main crop, so that less nitrogen ends up in the groundwater.
At the beginning of December, Adema wrote to the House that the requirement for these buffer strips and catch crops will not apply from 2023, but from 2024. That was an explicit wish of the House.
Brussels set the conditions at the end of last year, but many farmers had already started preparing for 2023. ChristenUnie, VVD and CDA, among others, therefore asked the cabinet to “take agricultural business practice into account”.
Adema agreed to this and wrote to the House that the buffer strips “will therefore actually take effect from 1 January 2024”.
‘European Commission is very serious about it’
But this decision will not be taken into account by the European Commission. The Netherlands is known in Brussels for not adhering to nature and environmental rules within agriculture. Further exceptions and delays are therefore excluded.
“The European Commission is firmly committed to it”, can be heard in The Hague. If the postponement of the buffer strips and catch crops is not immediately reversed, the question is whether the Netherlands can still use a transitional period for the fertilizer exception at all. That decision would have major consequences for Dutch farmers.
The House has been calling for some time that the cabinet should get more done for farmers in Brussels, but there is little to achieve.
“Traveling to Brussels at the moment, with any question about nature, nature conservation, Natura 2000, Birds and Habitats Directives, is an unfeasible path. I really want to be very honest about that,” said Minister Christianne van der Wal (Nature and Nitrogen) last summer during a nitrogen debate.
Unfortunately, this content cannot be displayed. We do not have permission for the necessary cookies. Accept the cookies to view this content.
Change cookie settings
05 Oct 2022 at 23:03
The ban on spreading manure also affects the pig sector, arable farming and the poultry sector
05 Sep 2022 at 13:39
Farmers are allowed to spread less manure because water quality has not improved
Read more about: