August 9, 2022

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Dutch farmers form 'Freedom Caravans' to protest government's strict environmental rules

Dutch farmers form ‘Freedom Caravans’ to protest government’s strict environmental rules

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farmers in Holland They put together their own version of Canada’s “freedom caravan,” blocking highways with tractors, setting bales of hay on fire, and taking other measures to protest the government’s latest emissions-reduction goal that could force some farms to close.

“Where is our prime minister? This country is on fire and farmers are standing up to the government,” a protest spokesman said while standing on a straw head in the town of Erbeek last week.

Nearly 40,000 protesters gathered in central Holland to protest against plans to reduce nitrogen and ammonia emissions last month. Weeks later, protests continued across the country with no sign of abating.

Pictures and videos show farmers causing a highway stop near the German border, with some Germans reportedly joining the protest. The Guardian reported Saturday that hundreds of businesses in three towns have effectively closed due to three different protests. Meanwhile, some supermarkets have barren shelves due to farmers also targeting distribution centers earlier this month.

A Dutch policeman shot a tractor during a night of protests on the farm

Farmers gather with their cars next to a border sign between Germany and the Netherlands during a protest on the A1 motorway, near Riesen, on June 29, 2022, against the Dutch government’s plans for nitrogen. – Netherlands OUT (Photo by Vincent Jannink/ANP/AFP) / Netherlands OUT (Photo by VINCENT JANNINK/ANP/AFP via Getty Images)
(VINCENT JANNINK/ANP/AFP via Getty Images)

Farmers say the protests are not meant to anger their fellow citizens and consumers, but to force the government to hold a referendum.

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The Dutch government aims to reduce nitrogen and ammonia emissions by 50% by 2030 in an effort to improve them Air, Land and Water Quality. The plans include reducing the fertilizer used on farms and reducing the number of livestock by about 30%.

The country is one of the world’s largest agricultural producers, exporting nearly $97 billion in 2020 in fruits, flowers, vegetables, dairy, and meat.

“If you ask me now, I’ll say, please don’t think about it,” said dairy farmer Jaap Siegward on whether he would recommend farming to younger generations. “There are a lot of concerns. Life is so much better than dealing with what’s going on in the agriculture sector at the moment.”

Farmers close the arrival and departure halls at Groningen Ede Airport in Eelde, the Netherlands, in protest of the government's far-reaching plans to cut nitrogen emissions on July 6, 2022.

Farmers close the arrival and departure halls at Groningen Ede Airport in Eelde, the Netherlands, in protest of the government’s far-reaching plans to cut nitrogen emissions on July 6, 2022.
(KEES VAN DE VEEN/ANP/AFP via Getty Images)

“Ask an ordinary farmer: it is very sad,” he said.

Farmers say they are being unfairly targeted by the rules while other industries, such as aviation, construction and transportation, contribute to emissions and face fewer rules. The farmers also argued that they did not get a clear picture of their future in light of the reforms.

Angry Dutch farmers log 700 miles of highway while protesting emission rules

Tractor convoys are a reference to Canadian Freedom ConvoysThe Guardian reported, which was held across Canada earlier this year to protest the country’s stringent coronavirus vaccine policies.

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Fishermen in the Netherlands have also joined the protests, closing the Harlingen port with fishing vessels last week, EuroNews reports.

The demonstrations were so widespread that Rolling Stones striker Mick Jagger shouted to farmers in Dutch during a concert in Amsterdam on Thursday.

Dutch protests gained more attention on Tuesday when police opened fire on a 16-year-old farmer who was driving a tractor in the country’s northern region during a demonstration. According to German website Deutsche Welle, the teenager took his tractor towards the police. After initially being held on suspicion of attempted manslaughter, he was released without charge. Police said no one was hurt during the incident.

The protests were mostly peaceful, with one demonstration moving about 60 miles east of Amsterdam from the road to allow funeral processions to pass. The Guardian reported that the farmers also distributed food and coffee to police officers.

Meanwhile, the country’s prime minister, Mark Root, has criticized the protesters, including calling them “holes” in the private company, according to The Guardian.

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“It is unacceptable to create dangerous situations. It is unacceptable to intimidate officials,” he said last week.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.