Humans will die because of cows. Despite not intending to, they are contributing to this end. Livestock farming is one of the major emitters of greenhouse gasses.
Corne de Rooij, a Dutch farmer, stomps his calves in the flat Dutch countryside. He wonders how long he can keep them safe from climate change, which threatens to sweep up the low-lying Dutch fields.
“It is my passion and my whole life,” the 53-year-old said in a quiet voice in his stable in the south Netherlands, where he raises chickens as well as calves.
“If we have a decision to stop raising them, it is going to hurt.”
The government has forced Dutch farmers to the wall, offering them the final option to make their farms more climate friendly or to change jobs.
The coalition government plans to release 25 Billion Euros ($28 Billion) by 2035 to reduce herd sizes, and to reduce nitrogen dioxide emissions.
The country of 17.5 millions people is small and densely populated. It also has a high population of animals, with nearly four million cattle, twelve million pigs, and 100 million chickens.
The Netherlands is second in agricultural exports after the United States. However agriculture is responsible for 16% Dutch greenhouse gas emissions.
Cows are also major emitters of methane from their digestive systems, which is a potent greenhouse gases.
“Uncertainty is huge”
The government is committed to helping farmers diversify their businesses, to retrain, innovate, and even relocate if their farm lies near a protected natural environment.
If they don’t comply, the government warns it can even expropriate land from recalcitrant farmers.
The government insists that it has no choice. The supreme Court has already suspended huge construction projects designed to tackle a housing shortage in a case brought forward by environmental groups regarding greenhouse gas emissions.
The government is pushing the agricultural sector to accelerate climate transition. It hopes to be in a position to resume some of these building projects while reducing nitrogen emissions by half by 2030.
The Dutch realized that it was too small to do everything. They have a large agricultural industry, a large flower-producing industry, Schiphol in Amsterdam, an international airport, dense roads, housing for all, and, of course, nature zones.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s new coalition – his fourth – does not specifically mention reducing herd sizes, but it is a measure that has long been under consideration and has sparked the anger of the farming sector.
Farmers who have been in the industry for generations often feel lost and out, says de Rooij. He is based in the village Riel in the southern province Brabant, close to the Belgian border.
He and his colleagues feel “very uncertain” because they are constantly faced with new rules that require more investment.
He will spend nearly a million euros to make his barns more climate neutral.
De Rooij claims that farming has become an “easy target” for the Dutch government. He says the government always points to the first accusation, even though he admits that he is “obviously worried” about climate change.
He said, “But give us money and time” and “clear goals.”
LTO, the Dutch main farming union, claims that the government is correct in releasing billions of Euros to make the sector more resilient.
However, it criticizes that more money was earmarked to pay farmers who quit than to encourage those who want stay.
“Farmers can see the change in the climate, they can see what they have to do, and they want to do it – but there is a cost,” LTO president Sjaak van der Tak told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
“We are at the beginning blocks, but society must make this transition possible.”
Corne de Roij will continue to learn to live with uncertainty.
He stated that he knew of several colleagues who thought it would be better for them to quit.
“Politicians must get their feet back on concrete.”
The Daily Sabah Newsletter
Keep up to date with what’s happening in Turkey,
it’s region and the world.