Dutch Farmers Strike Back
Pleasantly surprising news out of Holland – the BoerBurgerBeweging, or the Farmer–Citizen Movement, a political party founded in 2019 to protest the Dutch governments' mistreatment of the country's farmers, won big in this past week's elections. From The Telegraph:
A farmers' protest party angered by new green laws triumphed in shock Dutch election results, prompting its leader to ask: “People, what the f--- happened?” Caroline van der Plas’s Farmers-Citizen Movement (BBB) is projected to become the equal largest party in the senate, taking 15 seats from none before the vote. The Left-wing GroenLinks/PvdA is also expected to win 15 seats, in the wake of months of turbulent farmer protests against government plans to cut nitrogen emissions.
Regular readers will be familiar with the Dutch farmer protests. The short version of their story is that the E.U. has been pressuring the Dutch government to reduce emissions by 50 percent by the end of the decade. Since Holland is the world’s second-biggest agricultural exporter, after the United States, the agricultural sector is the most obvious place to make cuts.
Of course, farming isn't just abstract economic sector, or even just a job. It's a historic way of life in the Netherlands. So when the Dutch government started pressuring farmers to significantly reduce their livestock numbers; implemented emissions licenses, required for any expansions of existing farms; and announced plans for shutting down at least 3,000 farmers (which included threats of confiscation of farmland if farmers refused to sell); the farmers fought back.
For months farmers have been periodically "slow rolling" highways, pulling tractors out onto the open road in order to reduce the flow of traffic. They blocked food distribution centers and dumped their milk rather than send it to market. They did whatever they could to remind their fellow citizens that they were there, that they weren't going away, and that what they did was necessary for the Dutch nation to continue.
In December we reported that prime minister Mark Rutte had vowed not to change course or negotiate with the farmers, who he argued were breaching the peace. Well now he'll have to, since the farmers' party, the BBB, hold more senate seats than his party does:
Rutte, the centre-right Dutch prime minister, insisted his coalition government would survive, after its four member parties lost eight of their combined 32 seats in the 75-seat senate. “This is not the result we wanted,” he said, after projections showed his VVD party was on course to win 10 seats.
"Not the result we wanted" is quite the understatement! According to The Telegraph, as the largest party in the senate (tied, once again, with the Greens), the BBB is now in an ideal situation to "form alliances with other parties in the senate and block green legislation."
Now, the BBB still have a lot of work ahead of them, and this result doesn't guarantee that they will successfully rollback Rutte's environmentalist policies. But it does give them an invaluable seat at the table, of the kind that they didn't have before. So, pace Mr. Rutte, let the negotiations begin.
This past summer we reported on the tensions between the farmers of the Netherlands and that nation's government. The latter, at the behest of the E.U., had enacted various overweening environmentalist regulations, including a plan to slash the emission of gases like nitrogen oxide and ammonia by 50 percent by the end of this decade. These regulations were aimed squarely at farming, which is a sizable portion of the Dutch economy. They've already implemented nitrogen licenses, which are required for any new activity -- including the expansion of existing farms -- which emit the gas, and are pushing significant livestock reductions.
Dutch farmers have been understandably upset at these impositions, feeling that their livelihood has been unjustly targeted. They've undertaken mass protests, including blocking agricultural distribution centers and dumping milk rather then sending it to market, to force the country to acknowledge what life without their produce is like. In rowdier moments they've even sprayed manure on highways and used tractors to "slow-walk" roads, leading recently to what The Telegraph referred to as "the worst rush hour in Dutch history with 700 miles of jams at its peak."
Unfortunately the government, led by Prime Minister Mark Rutte, has refused to change course. It has recently unveiled plans to "buy and close down up to 3,000 farms near environmentally sensitive areas." They insist that farmers will be well-remunerated, and unconfirmed reports suggest the government's purchase price will be around 120 percent of the value of the farms in question. One thing that is confirmed, however, is that they're not asking:
“There is no better offer coming,” Christianne van der Wal, nitrogen minister, told MPs on Friday. She said compulsory purchases would be made with “pain in the heart” if necessary.
It is worth pointing out the characteristic utopianism of environmentalist public policy at play here. For one thing, these anti-farming mandates come at a time when the war in Ukraine has created significant disruption in the global food supply. In fact, as The Scroll's Clayton Fox pointed out, increased food insecurity is something that the Dutch government has recently acknowledged in another context:
On Saturday, in a jaw-droppingly ironic video commemorating the Holodomor, Stalin’s deliberate starvation of millions of Ukrainians from 1932 to 1933, Prime Minister Rutte committed $4.1 million to the World Food Programme, saying that the Netherlands was glad to support not only countries in need of food, but also Ukrainian farmers. It appears that the Netherlands is subsidizing beleaguered Ukrainian farmers while bribing their own to shut down forever.
Has it never occurred to him that "countries in need of food" might benefit even more from an increase in the supply of food? Money is nice and all, but you can't eat it.
But there's another aspect of Leftist utopian tendencies that this lays bare -- their disdain for their own nation, its customs, and its people. The Netherlands is the world’s second-biggest agricultural exporter, after the United States. Anyone who has spent time with farmers knows that the work is more than a job for them, and that is especially true for Dutch farmers, who have tended to carry the way of life with them wherever they go. As we wrote in our last post,
The Dutch are proud of their farming prowess, and it lives on even when they've left home. The United States and Canada are home to scores of ethnically Dutch farmers whose families made their way west to escape the great wars of the 20th century, and much of modern South Africa was built by the Dutch farmers, or Boers, who arrived there in the 17th century. Farming is in their blood.
But Mark Rutte and the E.U. want that way of life to come to an end. It is as shameful as it is short-sighted.
Are Dutch Farmers the New Canadian Truckers?
We've heard a lot about Net-Zero insanity in the U.K., Canada, and the United States, but enthusiasm for the concept is widespread among our global elite. For just the latest example, the government of the Netherlands, in order to do their part to "fight climate change" has recently enacted various pieces of environmentalist legislation. Among the most ambitious of these is a plan to slash the emission of gases like nitrogen oxide and ammonia by 50 percent by the year 2030.
Such drastic cuts necessitates radical action, and so to achieve their goal, the Dutch government is going to include increased regulations on farmers, including significant reductions in livestock -- whose flatulence is a popular target of environmentalist ire -- and for public money to be put towards buying up farmland to prevent its use in farming. Official plans have even been leaked laying out "scenarios" in which farmers could be forced to sell their land to the government.
This is shocking. The Netherlands is the world’s second-biggest agricultural exporter, after the United States, and farming is central to its economy. More than that, however, it is a major part of their national identity. The Dutch are proud of their farming prowess, and it lives on even when they've left home. The United States and Canada are home to scores of ethnically Dutch farmers whose families made their way west to escape the great wars of the 20th century, and much of modern South Africa was built by the Dutch farmers called Boers, who arrived there in the 17th century. Farming is in their blood.
Consequently, provoked by this attack on their way of life, the farmers are fighting back. Sometimes literally.
More often, however, their response has taken a more organized form, including "slow rolling" highways, by pulling tractors out onto the open road such that traffic grounds to a halt.
They've also taken to blockading supermarkets and distribution centers.
And dumping their milk rather than sending it to market.
Their object is to demonstrate how much the country relies on them, and what Dutch life would be like without the milk, eggs, meat, and produce that is the fruit of their labors.
Will these protests have an effect? Prime Minister Mark Rutte has vowed not to deal with the protesting farmers themselves, but he has begun negotiations with some of the nation's leading farmers' organizations in the hopes of working out a deal. It is likely that he's caught between a rock and a hard place, with the fanatically environmentalist European Union, on one side, pressuring his government to comply with the emissions targets they've set for his country, and his own countryman on the other.
Hopefully he chooses his own people rather than that unaccountable, post-democratic monstrosity. Doing so would make Rutte a greater leader than Canada's Justin Trudeau, who has incessantly courted the good opinion of the international elite instead of defending the interests of Canadians. Trudeau's negligence begat the Freedom Convoy this past winter, a movement which had more success than is popularly remembered, even if their fight isn't yet over.
Hopefully these Dutch farmers will be at least as successful.