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Farmers group pledge ‘hardest demonstrations ever’ after environmental policy meeting

The Farmers Defense Force is not satisfied with Friday’s meeting between farmers and the Cabinet, and believes protests will escalate as a result. The organization was joined by a number of other farmers’ groups, who also voiced their disillusionment with the talks.

According to Jeroen van Maanen of the FDF, farmers’ organizations were disappointed in the conversation between farmers and nitrogen moderator Johan Remkes. The FDF speaks for eight farmers’ organizations that participated in a debriefing meeting in Wageningen on Friday afternoon and claims to represent 95 percent of agriculture.

“If I have a taste of the mood, I think you can prepare for the toughest demonstrations that FDF has ever conducted,” said FDF foreman Mark van den Oever. He would not specify what kind of demonstrations he meant. “We’re not going to dwell on that, but we’re definitely going to escalate. We always come up with something special.”

The Farmers Defense Force was not present at the meeting in Utrecht on Friday, where farmers spoke with Cabinet members including Prime Minister Rutte and with mediator Johan Remkes. Van den Oever is in consultation with the largest umbrella organization, LTO Nederland. LTO announced Friday that it will be present at the end of August for a subsequent consultation on the nitrogen crisis.

According to Van den Oever, the gap between the Cabinet and the farmers is large. He compares it to the Grand Canyon in the United States. “The impasse is great, we are back to square one,” he said. He added that the farmers wanted a commitment from the Cabinet, which they did not receive. Now “we have to go back to the old strategy,” he said.

Other farmers’ group representatives also weighed in on the meeting on Friday. Chairman Henk Bleker of the Dutch Dairy Farmers’ Union said farmers and the Cabinet should talk about the actual state of the nature reserves, rather than “nature accounting,” and then consider what measures are needed per area. “Then we are also open to our role,” Bleker said. However, he was furious that the Cabinet continued to bring up the critical deposition value (KDW), the amount of nitrogen that a specific nature reserve can still handle.

“There must be a plan, there must be a proposal in our direction. Until that moment, nothing, absolutely nothing, can be expected from us,” Bleker said.

Agractie called Remkes’ mediation a failure. Foreman of Agractie Bart Kemp said he expects the Cabinet to come up with something now. According to him, Rutte and Remkes have seen that the distrust and the gap are large, and that they cannot make the farmers agree. “Farmers…will continue to fight for their future,” Kemp said.

Van den Oever says that he does not want to make any appeals to his supporters. “These farmers themselves know very well what they can and cannot do. Nobody is in favor of throwing asbestos on the highway. I think we all agree on that. But look, it is of course also our supporters, we will not lose weight.” In previous protests, items containing the cancer-causing asbestos were thrown onto the highway. The mess had to be cleaned up by specialized companies, which meant that roads remained closed for longer.

A police spokesperson said on Friday that no immediate preventive action will be taken in response to Van den Oever’s statements. “It is not the case that the alarm phase is one with the police, that all leave is withdrawn. That is really not the case.”

The police will instead continue to collect as much information as possible about, for example, unannounced protests, the spokesperson said. “That’s what we’re doing all the time. Today, yesterday, and we’ll continue.”

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