The Cabinet can solve the nitrogen crisis for half of the money currently available. By buying out five thousand farmers close to vulnerable nature reserves for 13 billion euros, the cabinet will achieve its nitrogen targets in one fell swoop. It appears from internal documents from the Ministry of Finance that NRC Viewed.
This is the first time that officials have tried this calculation, which shows what it would cost if the government were to buy out the farmers only to reduce nitrogen emissions. Finance officials, in consultation with colleagues from Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, have calculated how farms and their lands could be acquired most efficiently.
The research method is simple: Livestock farms that emit the most nitrogen and whose animals cost the least money are bought up first. The statement of Finans shows that the nitrogen crisis can be solved by buying the 10 percent largest emitters from agriculture. Other agricultural holdings do not have to make (technical) adjustments. The coalition agreement states that 74 percent of the vulnerable Dutch nature in 2030 must no longer deteriorate as a result of nitrogen emissions.
Purchases of farmers are very sensitive in the sector itself and politically, and meet great resistance. Two weeks ago, Ministers Christianne van der Wal (Nature and Nitrogen, VVD) and Henk Staghouwer (Agriculture, ChristenUnie) announced how much emissions should be reduced per capita. province. Farmers fear that this will clear the landscape. They believe that too much emphasis is placed on acquiring companies and that other solutions are ignored, such as technical adaptations of stables or fewer animals per.
Halves the poultry sector
If the plan that Finans had envisaged were to become a reality, the consequences for the poultry sector would be greatest: it would be halved. A quarter of the pig farms would be acquired.
It is striking that only a fraction of the dairy farms are affected. Buying them, according to economic figures, is relatively expensive because they own a lot of land. Officials assume a land price of 60,000 euros per. The average price last year was 67,000 euros.
According to the calculations, acquisitions of companies close to vulnerable nature reserves in Gelderland will be very effective in reducing nitrogen emissions. This means that in “large parts of the Gelderse Vallei, agriculture is completely acquired”. Also in East Brabant, a little agriculture could be left behind.
Finans has also investigated what happens if the restructuring pain is spread across the sector. For every holding belonging to the 10 percent largest emitters (approximately 5,000) that does not disappear completely, 27 other holdings must be purchased. In other words, the largest emitters cause 27 times as much nitrogen precipitation as an average farm.
Calculating buyout is one thing, execution is another story. So far, the government has primarily experienced how difficult it is. For example, the outcome of a buy-out scheme for pig farmers was disappointing: Of the 430 companies that signed up, 278 eventually stopped. And the nitrogen reduction was two-thirds lower than expected.
Among ‘peak loaders’, farmers who emit a lot of nitrogen and who are close to nature reserves, there is also not much incentive to stop for the time being. A scheme paid for by the government, which the provinces have been offering since November 2020, has hardly gotten farmers to sign. Not a single farmer has been stopped in ‘nitrogen hotspots’ in North Brabant and Gelderland, according to the provinces. The scheme expires next September.
The successor to this Regulation is available for consultation in Brussels. According to Minister Van der Wal, this new scheme would be “wildly attractive”; the faster the farmers report, the more generous their compensation. However, it is unclear whether this is allowed under European rules. If this is not allowed, the scheme will have to return to the drawing board, and the acquisition of farmers will be delayed – while the Minister will hurry.
A finance rapporteur confirms that finance officials are working on figures and stresses that the final version will be announced around the summer.
Farmer resistance page 4-6
A version of this article was also published in the newspaper on June 23, 2022