15 December 1995

Dutch demos reveal fury at anti-pollution plans

ANGRY Dutch farmers have been taking to the streets to voice their outrage at government plans to reduce nitrogen and phosphate pollution.

While British farmers within nitrate vulnerable zones are up against tight restrictions (News, Dec 8), their Dutch counterparts face even stiffer penalties.

The Dutch government has introduced a 15-year manure policy, which centres on introducing a mineral accounting system for farms of more than 2.5 livestock units a hectare.

The mineral ledger will introduce a maximum allowable output loss for phosphates and nitrogen of 40kg and 300kg/ha (32 and 240 units/acre) by 1998. These figures will be cut still further to just 20kg and 180kg/ha (16 and 144 units/acre) by 2008-2010.

Farmers who fail to meet the restrictions face fines of DFl5\kg (£2) for the first 10kg exceeding the standard, and DFl20 (£4) for every additional kg.

Jos Roemaat, who has been coordinating the farmer demonstrations, said farmers felt the minerals accounting system was far-fetched and unrealistic.

Demonstrations, which began with a 10,000-strong rally in The Hague in October, have been repeated in at least a dozen towns across the country.

"At present, Dutch farmers are losing 70kg/ha to the environment and yet they are being asked to reduce this to 35kg/ha within four years," said Mr Roemaat. "All the scientific research suggests a 45kg/ ha figure is more than adequate.

"Farmers are worried that lowering the phosphate figure too much will lead to lower yields, a need to buy in artificial feeds, resulting in a downward spiral and substantial loss of income," he added.

The mineral ledger will affect 35% of all arable farms and 50% of the 74,000 livestock farms in the Netherlands. Dutch farm minister Jozias Van Aartsen advises either using feed which will lower mineral contents in the manure or selling manure on the home or foreign markets. &#42