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Struggling to survive: Sri Lankan tea pickers, victims of the nitrogen scare. Photo supplied

Dutch farmers plan fresh protests as nitrogen ‘science’ is called into question

The Dutch farmers' movement Agractie has called on its supporters to stage new protest actions. Erik Luiten, one of the leaders of the movement, said in a video message that such actions could include organising standstills at busy places. The farmers' movement is massively supported by citizens.

Published: August 17, 2022, 12:32 pm

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    Agractie wants the nitrogen policy of the government off the table. The government wants to force agriculture to halve its nitrogen emissions by 2030. That would mean that many farmers would have to stop.

    “It’s really coming down to it now,” said Luiten. “We have to persevere and stay the course.”

    The government continues to claim that nature would improve immediately if some critical value is not exceeded. “There is no scientific evidence for that,” emphasised Agraction leader Bart Kemp in the studio of broadcaster Ongehoord Nederland.

    “People want to farmers to clean up, while it will also be for nothing,” Kemp said. “Farmers remain motivated by that injustice to take action.”

    According to him, nitrogen mediator Johan Remkes is a distraction. “Remkes invited 100 parties, but if I have a fight with my neighbour, I’m not going to invite the whole village, am I? Then you should talk to the farmers who really have a lot of problems with this policy. And not with environmental organisations that say in the media: we already have the lawsuits ready.”

    Different agenda

    The fact that there is only a focus on these expropriation plans confirmed what opposition figures have been calling for since 2019: that the entire policy is aimed at taking the land away from farmers, in order to be able to build houses, to be able to push through that whole climate agenda and that is distressing, said MP Gideon van Meijeren (FVD).

    “It’s taking away land, it’s land grabbing for a different agenda than the one being proposed,” Van Meijeren explained.

    The example of Sri Lanka

    Sri Lanka has disappeared from the headlines of world politics. Until recently, reports of civil war-like unrest and an energy emergency have been circulating. Gasoline and electricity were being rationed.

    There is a good reason for the silence of the media: The catastrophe that broke out in the holiday paradise is entirely home-made. And it is strikingly reminiscent of the “green” recipes, which threaten to strangle the economy in the Netherlands.

    In July, after months of unrest, Sri Lanka’s President Gotabaya Rajapaksa left the country, abandoning his country to an economic crisis and food shortages. Two and a half years earlier, he had been going around and praising his government for fighting artificial fertilizer. Sri Lanka wanted to convert its agriculture completely to organic farming and for this reason had banned the import of conventional fertilizer and fuel.

    The fatal result: in just one year, Sri Lanka went from being a rice exporter to an importer. The organic experiment plunged half a million people into poverty and sent prices skyrocketing by well over 50 percent.

    UNEP is responsible for the fiasco

    The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) is responsible for the fiasco. It describes itself as “the global authority that sets the environmental agenda (…) and serves as the authoritative advocate for the global environment”. UNEP is trying to dissuade governments around the world from using fertilizers to increase food production.

    In 2019, the acting UNEP director cited the “long-term disturbance of the earth’s nitrogen balance by mankind” as the reason – exactly the same argument that Dutch farmers are currently confronted with. In October 2019, UNEP held a meeting in Colombo and released a “roadmap” to encourage other countries to cut nitrogen pollution by half.

    Fake science to ban nitrogen

    The meeting attracted worldwide media interest. A month later, citizens elected anti-fertilizer President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who claimed without the slightest scientific evidence that synthetic fertilizers caused kidney disease. Rajapaksa followed his words with deeds: in April 2021 he banned the import of fertilizers.

    The result: 85 percent of farmers in Sri Lanka suffered serious crop losses. Rice production fell 20 percent, prices rose more than 50 percent, and the country had to import $450 million worth of grain. In Rajanganaya, where farmers average just one hectare of land, families reported reaping half their normal harvest.

    Tea production, the country’s main source of income to date, was hardest hit. It brought in $1,3 billion in exports annually and covered 71 percent of the country’s food imports by 2021. After the fertilizer ban, tea production plummeted by 18 percent, hitting its lowest level in 23 years. The government’s devastating fertilizer ban destroyed Sri Lanka’s ability to pay for food and fuel and service its foreign debt.

    Sri Lanka and its “green” agenda is a timely warning to other countries – and a prime example of how “green” policies have been implemented with significant media coverage that have had little effect and caused much suffering.

    Experts like the President of the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), Žilvinas Šilėnas, now agree that the ban on artificial fertilizers will inevitably lead to less food. But: “It’s just that the effects of these measures in the rich countries only become visible later. Tragically, in poor countries like Sri Lanka, the effects of bad policies are almost immediately visible.”

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