Dutch Agriculture Minister Resigns After Mass Farmers Protests

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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Dutch agricultural minister Henk Staghouwer resigned Monday following nationwide protests from farmers who feared the ministry’s climate policy would destroy their livelihoods, The Associated Press reported.

Staghouwer stepped down after telling the Dutch cabinet he would not be able to meet a September deadline for rolling out a policy to cut nitrogen emissions from the nation’s farming sector, the AP reported. The initiative involved a $24.2 billion scheme to buy out local farmers and facilitate the transition away from intensive farming practices, provoking mass demonstrations by farmers across the continent.

“Farmers and fishermen need certainty,” Staghouwer said in a statement to his ministry Monday evening, NL Times reported. The farming sector faced a massive upheaval due to emissions reduction goals, he added. (RELATED: Governing Elites Pushing To Slash Emissions Are Disconnected From Reality, Experts Say)

In July, over 40,000 farmers took to the streets in protest of the policy, blocking roads with tractors and defacing government officials’ homes. Sympathizers elsewhere in Europe staged protests in solidarity with the Dutch farmers, arguing that such a policy is counterproductive amid highly elevated inflation levels and food shortages.

“I asked myself the question, ‘Am I the right person as Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality to lead the tasks that lie ahead?’ Last weekend, I came to the conclusion that I am not that person,” he said after nine months in office, according to NL Times.

Staghouwer said he required more time to develop proposals for a future sustainable agriculture industry ahead of the government’s budget formation earlier on Monday, and that he wanted to wait until ongoing talks between his office and industry representatives had come to a conclusion, NL Times reported.

Staghouwer faced criticism from the parliament for failing to develop a concrete plan to help the sector transition to farming practices that lower nitrogen emissions, according to Officials within his department also resisted plans to revamp the farming industry.

The Dutch government mandated a 50% reduction in nitrogen emissions by 2030, tasking individual municipalities to figure out how best to meet that goal, Deutsche Welle reported. Livestock farming accounts for 40% of emissions in the country, so the policy could see up to a third of livestock farmers put out of business.

The Netherlands is the world’s second largest exporter of agricultural products and the European Union’s largest meat exporter, according to CBS News.

Protests continued through July.

Bart Kemp, foreman of the farmers’ interest group Agractie Nederland, told NL Times that farmers said Staghower had “little concrete vision in him” and “faced an impossible task.”

Staghouwer’s predecessor, Carola Schouten, temporarily took over his position while a replacement is determined from Staghouwer’s party.

“Schouten has never attached any value to a good relationship with the farmers,” Kemp told NL Times.

The Dutch agricultural ministry did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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