Farmers Blockade EU Capital to Fight Fertiliser Restrictions

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From Watts Up With That?

Essay by Eric Worrall

Green policy obsessed European leaders are ignoring the implications of Sri Lanka’s organic farming food crisis.

Massive farmers protest disrupts Brussels traffic

BRUSSELS (AP) — Hundreds of tractors driven by angry farmers protesting a plan to cut nitrate levels converged on Brussels on Friday, creating major traffic disruption in Belgium’s capital city.

The BB farmers union and several others combined efforts to gather more than 2,700 farm vehicles, according to Brussels police.

The Flemish regional government is struggling to find a deal to cut nitrate pollution over farmers’ objections that it would put many out of business. 

Farmers also claim that their trade has to make much deeper cuts than industry and want to see a more equitable spread.

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Why are EU member state governments clamping down on farming practices?


Protecting waters against pollution caused by nitrates from agricultural sources


Nitrogen is a crucial nutrient that helps plants and crops grow, but high concentrations are harmful to people and nature. Pure, clean water is vital to human health and to natural ecosystems. Excess nitrogen from agricultural sources is one of the main causes of water pollution in Europe.

Nitrates and organic nitrogen compounds from fertilizer and manure enter groundwater through leaching and reach surface water through runoff from agricultural fields. A high level of nitrate makes water unsuitable as drinking water.

In rivers, lakes and marine waters, nitrogen and other nutrients, in particular phosphorus, stimulate the growth of algae. At moderate levels, algae serve as food for aquatic organisms, including fish. However, excessive nutrient concentration in water systems will cause algae to grow excessively. This affects the natural ecosystem and can lead to depletion of the oxygen in the water. This phenomenon, known as eutrophication, has negative consequences for biodiversity, fisheries and recreational activities.

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The EU also has another reason for trying to force down the use of fertiliser. Nitrous oxide emissions from farms are a potent greenhouse gas.

Special Report: Common Agricultural Policy and climate

Half of EU climate spending but farm emissions are not decreasing

European Court of Auditors

Since 2013, climate action has been one of the main objectives of the Common Agricultural Policy – the CAP. The Commission attributed over €100 billion – more than a quarter of the total CAP budget – to mitigating and adapting to climate change during the 2014-2020 period.

II The EU’s role in mitigating climate change in the agricultural sector is crucial because the EU sets environmental standards and co-finances most of Member States’ agricultural spending. We decided to audit the CAP because a large share of its budget is attributed to mitigating and adapting to climate change and because of the close links between climate and agricultural policy. We expect our findings to be useful in the context of the EU’s objective of becoming climate neutral by 2050.

Livestock emissions, mainly driven by cattle, represent around half of emissions from agriculture and have been stable since 2010. However, the CAP does not seek to limit livestock numbers; nor does it provide incentives to reduce them. The CAP market measures include promotion of animal products, the consumption of which has not decreased since 2014.

VI Emissions from chemical fertilisers and manure, accounting for almost a third of agricultural emissions, increased between 2010 and 2018. The CAP supports practices that may reduce the use of fertilisers, such as organic farming and grain legumes. However, we found that these practices have an unclear impact on greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, practices that are more effective received little funding.

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EU bureaucracies claim they do not support reducing livestock headcount, but I don’t believe them. Reduced livestock headcount would be an inevitable consequence of pursuing their stated goal of reduced fertiliser use. Intensive farming, including livestock farming, needs lots of fertiliser.

Netherlands announces €25bn plan to radically reduce livestock numbers

Tom Levitt Thu 16 Dec 2021 01.00 AEDT

Programme to tackle pollution crisis caused by an overload of manure faces fierce opposition from farmers

The Dutch government has unveiled a €25bn (£21bn) plan to radically reduce the number of livestock in the country as it struggles to contain an overload of animal manure.

A deal to buy out farmers to try to reduce levels of nitrogen pollution in the country had been mooted for some time, and was finally confirmed after the agreement of a new coalition government in the Netherlands earlier this week. 

But the plan, the first of its kind in the world, faces a huge backlash from farmers who have staged big street protests in recent years over the prospect of tough regulation and farmer buyouts. They fear permanent damage to food production in the country if too many farmers are forced to quit.

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Is fertiliser runoff affecting Netherlands and other European wilderness ecosystems? Absolutely – I’m not disputing that intensive farming causes algal blooms and significantly impacts wilderness ecosystems. But Europe has other problems, problems which should be treated as a higher priority.

European food inflation is already running at 16-18%, because of rising energy and fertiliser prices, and also likely because European farmers have to spend time attending protests against European attempts to ruin their businesses, instead of tending their farms and growing food.

Inflation in Europe is falling but food prices are rising. Who is paying the most and what for?

By Rita Palfi  •  Updated: 26/01/2023

Food prices have continued to rise across Europe despite inflation dropping for a second consecutive month in December, according to data shared on Wednesday by Eurostat, the European statistics agency.

The inflation of food prices in the EU was 18.2 per cent, and 16.2 per cent in the eurozone in December, which is a slight decrease compared to November on average. But some basic food items like sugar, milk cheese and eggs, oils, and fats prices are still going up.

The highest price rise was seen in Hungary at nearly 50 per cent, Lithuania the second highest with 33.5 per cent followed by Estonia with 30.8 per cent.

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Declaring war on European farmers, at a time when food prices are rising out of control, because of climate targets and concerns about wilderness protection, is a recipe for disaster. 

The determination of Europe’s out of touch leaders to cling to their climate and wilderness protection goals, no matter what the consequences to the lives of ordinary European people, is undermining European food security.