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Dutch government to pay livestock farmers to shut down their businesses

In attempts to drastically cut national emissions by 2030, the Dutch government has approved a €1.5 billion scheme to buy out local livestock farmers. The aim is to reduce two greenhouse gases – nitrous oxide and methane – from contributing to global heating.

By now, it is common knowledge that livestock farming accounts for a huge portion of global greenhouse emissions annually.

But information related to the relationship between animal farming and the climate crisis tends to focus on the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted during the process of getting a single piece of steak to the dinner table, for example.

At recent climate events, however, scientists and leaders have begun pointing to methane and nitrogen oxide as the ‘lowest hanging fruit’ in the fight to prevent further global heating.

Methane and nitrogen oxide are two gases that are heavily concentrated on livestock farms, where animal manure is stored and treated in great quantities.

Looking to fast-track its way to 2030 green targets, the Dutch government has moved to buy out local livestock farmers’ businesses. So how will the plan work?

The Dutch government isn’t messing around, approving a massive €1.5 billion scheme to compensate farmers for the closure of their farms.

The scheme will only be available to farmers whose businesses emit especially high levels of nitrogen dioxide, of which there are 3,000. Those who voluntarily opt in will receive a large grant for shutting all farming operations involving livestock.

To better paint the picture of just how lucrative livestock farming is for the Dutch, the national statistics office reported that agricultural exports raked in €122.3 billion for the country last year.

This figure puts them just behind the US in terms of earnings.

Considering that the Netherlands is the world’s second-biggest exporter of agricultural products, the success of the plan will create a huge step forward in meeting the global target of slashing nitrogen oxide and ammonia emissions by 50 percent before 2030.

Though it’s been great for the Dutch economy, this high level of livestock farming has brought dangerous levels of biodiversity-destroying nitrogen into the environment.

The current level of nitrogen emitted by the Netherlands alone is breaking EU safety regulations.

So far, proposed steps to get closer to green targets haven’t gone down well with Dutch farmers. They haven’t been happy about plans set out by authorities, as they feel their industry is being unfairly targeted.

There have already been government discussions on reducing livestock numbers in the country by a third, which led to many farmers fearing that they’d be forced to close their businesses entirely.

This new scheme, though entirely voluntary and generous in terms of its pay-out, is likely to add insult to injury.

We’ll have to wait and see how the success of the scheme plays out. Until then, I’d say enjoy your imported Gouda while you can.