If the next government tightens up its nitrogen policy further, it will hardly be possible to farm in the ‘nitrogen-sensitive’ provinces of Gelderland, Noord-Brabant and Overijssel. This is what the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) states in its policy advice ‘Towards a way out of the nitrogen crisis’. The PBL calls on the next cabinet to be honest about the consequences of the nitrogen policy.
“In nitrogen-sensitive regions, there will hardly be room for open forms of livestock and arable farming, even if they are organic or extensive or make use of innovative technology,” the advisory body writes.
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According to the PBL, stricter targets for nitrogen emissions will mean “an unprecedented transformation of the rural area in the Netherlands”. The planning office states that the new cabinet can best look for solutions per region instead of a ‘non-area-oriented’ approach. In this respect, nature quality must be central instead of ‘a one-sided focus on generic reduction of nitrogen deposition’.
If the nitrogen standards are slightly exceeded, other factors can be much more decisive for the quality of nature. That is why, according to the planning office, in addition to nitrogen, water availability and quality and the layout and size of nature reserves should also be considered.
Tricky point in formation
The House of Representatives passed a law in March, stipulating that nitrogen emissions must be phased out step by step. But the elaboration of the goals and the concrete approach that goes with them has largely yet to take place. “For thousands of farming families in particular, these choices are very decisive for the future and direction of their company,” writes the PBL.
The nitrogen dossier is a tricky point in the cabinet formation, because especially D66 and the CDA differ strongly on this. D66 leader Sigrid Kaag warned in May in a letter to informer Mariëtte Hamer against “half work” and for plans “that insufficiently reduce nitrogen emissions”, while the CDA wants to spare farmers as much as possible.