Dutch Farmers Are Protesting A Government Policy Canada And Ireland Are Now Proposing, Is The U.S. Next?

Published online: Aug 03, 2022 Feature Jenna Hoffman, Farm Journal
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Ag carbon emissions are high on some country’s government dockets this year, as the Netherlands released a 13-year, 25-billion-euro plan to cut nitrogen oxide and ammonia emissions by 50 percent by 2030. 

Canada’s Take

Canada—a country whose ag industry $134.9 billion of its 2021 GDP—followed in the Netherland’s footsteps last Friday, with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unveiling a plan to cut nitrogen emissions 30 percent from 2020 levels by 2030.

Trudeau’s report also outlines recommendations for farmers to use, among other practices:

1.    4R strategies
2.    Variable rate technology
3.    Cover crops

Kristjan Hebert, a Saskatchewan, Canada farmer, says farmers in his area use most of these practices already. He says they’re more concerned about how these proposals will change before they’re written into law.

“The problem is that some of these pretty poor ideas come on a boat from the EU and get dropped off in Ottawa,” he says. “What’s going on in the Netherlands, and what took place in Sri Lanka, is getting overlaid on top of our policy.”

In response to Trudeau’s announcement, Fertilizer Canada released analysis showing significant production loses if the legislation passes, as farmers say they will need to shrink grain output to meet the 2030 goal.

According to the analysis, Canada could lose over 160 million metric tons of canola, corn and spring wheat between 2023 and 2030 if the Trudeau’s plan is put into action.

Ireland Builds On Ag’s Parameters

Canada and the Netherlands are not alone in drafting new climate policies directed towards ag. 

Ireland’s government is proposing new laws which will give government the power to hinder any farmer from buying, holding or spreading fertilizer, according to the Irish Examiner. It says anyone looking to get their hands on fertilizer will have to be registered as a “professional fertiliser end user.”

This news comes on the heels of Ireland finalizing its 5th amendment to the Nitrates Action Programme, a move that tightened the reigns on water quality issues. Ireland’s Minister O’Brien says the policy amendments are important in achieving the country’s climate goals.

“Protecting and improving water quality, along with biodiversity, is a national priority in Ireland, and these amendments provide additional clarity to Ireland’s Nitrates Action Programme in order to achieve this objective.”

Is The U.S. Next?

In early July, The Hill was filled with talks that President Biden might declare a climate emergency following Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) nixing an economic package that contains new spending on climate or tax increases, according to Jim Wiesemeyer, ProFarmer policy analyst.

Instead of a climate emergency, Biden moved to pen a series of executive orders to address climate through:

1.    Program funding to help strengthen flood control, bolster utilities and organize heating and cooling assistance for low-income communities.
2.    A switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy through domestic offshore wind built by Vineyard Wind.
3.    Workplace heat inspections, including parameters for when employers can force employees to work—or not—amid extreme cold or heat.

While President Biden hasn’t declared climate an emergency, some feel it’s a waiting game. Just ask Illinois farmer Sherman Newlin.

“I feel like every day is one day closer to having the President declare a climate emergency,” he says. “Once that happens, I don’t know what it will mean for ag, or what it’s going to open up the door to.”

Newlin says he checked out on climate emergency conversations months ago because its “it doesn’t feel right and it’s so far out there.”

AgriTalk Host Chip Flory echoed Newlin, saying it feels like “forced sustainability”—a path he feels farmers have been walking for quite some time.