Over the past few months, thousands of Dutch farmers have blocked highways and staged protests. Hundreds have been arrested, and one was even shot at by a police officer. Dutch farmers have been protesting in the streets on and off since 2019.
Why are the farmers so outraged? They are fighting for nothing less than the survival of modern agriculture as such. In the name of “sustainability” and fighting “pollution,” green activists are trying to do to agriculture what they have been doing to the power grid and the oil and gas industry. In the name of highly questionable environmental goals, green activists want to destroy the ability of farms to produce high-quality, abundant, clean, and inexpensive food.
Although the Netherlands has a population of 17 million, while only slightly larger than the U.S. state of Maryland, it is the second-largest agricultural exporter in the world after the United States. Dutch farms produce enormous quantities of beef, pork, dairy products and many other agricultural goods that are sold all over Europe and the world. The Dutch are able to produce so much food in such a small country thanks to the application of technology to farming methods. Dutch farms are perhaps the most advanced in the world. Thanks to the latest technology, Dutch food is not only plentiful but also inexpensive, efficient and clean without sacrificing quality.
Green activists claim that this agriculture produces too much pollution and thus must be drastically reduced. At the behest of the European Union and green groups, the Dutch government is imposing a plan to reduce nitrogen oxide and ammonia pollution by 50% by 2030. If carried out, this draconian plan would force Dutch farmers to reduce their herds by one-third and reduce their use of fertilizer. Many farms would be forced to close, and the cost of food would undoubtedly rise.
The radical green movement has been waging war on modern agriculture for years. Claiming that farming practices are “unsustainable,” it wants to eliminate the use of fertilizers, pesticides and technology, which would eliminate the massive gains in productivity and efficiency achieved over the past century.
If anyone doubts these radical green goals, look no farther than Sri Lanka. The country’s economy collapsed, resulting in food shortages and mass unemployment. A leading cause (though not the only one) of this meltdown was the radical green policies of former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa. In April 2021, he banned the importation of chemical fertilizers used by 90% of the country’s farms and forced farmers to revert to “organic” methods.
The effects were swift. One-third of Sri Lanka’s farms went dormant, and 85% of farmers suffered crop losses. Rice production fell 20%, while its price rose 50%. Sri Lanka was forced to import rice from a market in which it had previously been self-sufficient. Tea production, a cash crop for Sri Lanka, fell 18%. Inflation skyrocketed, food became scarce and many small farmers were ruined.
Sri Lanka’s meltdown did not stop green activists from pushing similar measures in the West. They are demanding that Dutch farmers drastically reduce nitrogen oxide and ammonia pollution or shut down. Both nitrogen oxide and ammonia runoff are unavoidable side effects of farming, the first from fertilizers and the second from animal manure. With technology, however, both can be significantly reduced.
Since the sixties, the Dutch have doubled their yields using the same amount of fertilizer. Since 1990, the Dutch have also managed to increase production while reducing nitrogen oxide and ammonia pollution by a staggering 70%.
In some parts of the world, this pollution is a serious problem. It is particularly bad in poor, underdeveloped countries such as China and India. Scientists use a metric called Nitrogen Use Efficiency (NUE) to measure how much crop fertilizer washes away into waterways. In Europe and North America, NUE has increased to nearly 70%. In China, it has fallen from 65% to 20%.
Thanks to technology, farmers can produce more food, on less land, with less fertilizer, water, fuel and pesticide than ever before. Dutch farms are among the cleanest and most efficient in the world. Far from a target of scorn, Dutch agriculture should be a model for the rest of the world. Food exports also bring in $100 billion in revenue for the Netherlands annually, a major contributor to the country’s prosperity.
If green activists really cared about the environment and human flourishing, they would try to replace wasteful and dirty practices in poor countries with technology from rich countries. But the green war on agriculture has little to do with pollution and the environment. Instead, radical greens want to destroy private property, drastically increase government central planning over the economy, and “de-develop” Western economies to subsistence level. Green activists want to reduce agriculture just as much as they want to reduce the human population, which they see as a threat to the planet.
One of the best examples of this war on agriculture is the Green New Deal. Radical leftists launched it in 2019 under the pretext of saving the environment. One central point was a drastic reduction in agriculture and replacing it with “sustainable” farming that produces zero emissions or as much as “technically feasible.” But the Green New Deal has little to do with actual pollution and everything to do with socialism. Even Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s former chief of staff, Saikat Chakrabarti, admitted this: “Do you guys think of it as a climate thing? Because we really think of it as a how-do-you-change-the-entire-economy thing.”
The United Nations is at the forefront of this agricultural de-development. The U.N. Conference on Human Settlements, known as Habitat I, calls for the end of privately owned land because it contributes to “social injustice… public-control of land is therefore indispensable.” The U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, also known as Agenda 2030, calls for the complete restructuring of the economy, including agriculture. There must be “fundamental changes in the way that our societies produce and consume goods and services,” it says. One way is to eliminate the “excessive use of nitrogen fertilizer,” which it claims is “a major cause of water pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.”
The World Economic Forum (WEF), has launched a “Food Action Alliance” to promote the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. Last September, it released a report which outlined its “leadership agenda for multi-stakeholder collaboration to transform food systems.”
These programs are not just documents and summits but have real-world consequences. The U.N.’s Sustainable Development goals directly inspired the disastrous green experiment in Sri Lanka. These goals were explicitly invoked by the now-exiled Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa to justify his banning of nitrogen-based fertilizers.
As for the Netherlands, the Green revolutionaries are using it as a test case. If they succeed in crushing Dutch agriculture, the war on farming will spread to other Western countries and the world. Canada just announced a similar plan to reduce nitrogen emissions by 30%, provoking a backlash among Canadian farmers. The UK, Ireland and other European countries are planning similar forced reductions.
But there is a big reaction among the general population to this tyranny. Polls show that the party of Prime Minister Mark Rutte would lose 13 of its 34 seats in parliament, and his coalition partner, the green D66 party, would lose 11 of its 24 seats.
Cultuur onder Vuur (Culture under attack), a sister organization of the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP), has collected 77,000 signatures against the plan, which were presented to the Dutch Minister for Nature and Nitrogen Policy, Christianne van der Wal.
Americans and people of goodwill should take note of what is happening in the Netherlands. The green war on agriculture is coming to a farm near you.
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