Nitrogen talks start: whats on the table?

The ghost has to go back into the bottle. That is the approach of the first conversation tomorrow morning between the cabinet and farmersorganizations. After weeks of rising tensions, blockages and reproaches over and over again, the parties led by mediator Johan Remkes are now sitting down with each other.

At least, a number of parties. Not all of them, because, for example, the well-known action group Farmers Defence Force has LTO convey a message. And Agractie does not participate either. That action group emphasizes once again today that the cabinet is not willing to respond to its demands, so that talking does not make sense for them.

โ€œI think there will be a good representation of the agricultural sector at the table tomorrow,โ€ Prime Minister Rutte said today. He was visiting a dairy farm in Koudum, Frisian. He regrets that a large number of peasant organizations do not join the consultation with the cabinet, but that does not make the conversation pointless, Rutte said.

Remkes sees his role in the conversation as an โ€œindependent interlocutorโ€, but the peasant organizations are critical about this. Because Remkes, as chairman of an advisory committee, laid the foundation for the current nitrogen policy, as it were, they see him as partisan.

Now that they start talking, the question is: what is actually on the table? We pick out five points:

1. The Goals

The cabinet’s nitrogen plan states that total nitrogen emissions should be 50 percent lower by 2030, in eight years. Most of this task ends up with farmers, because, according to the RIVM, they are responsible for most of the nitrogen emissions.

Around some nature reserves, nitrogen emissions even have to be reduced by more than 70 percent. Many of the invited farmers‘ organizations consider these goals far too high and want the cabinet to reconsider them.

2. The time frame

In addition, farmer organizations believe that they are not given enough time to meet the nitrogen targets. The cabinet says that it should all be arranged by 2030. But according to the law, five years later, in 2035, would also be good.

Why the cabinet wants to speed up the plans is not entirely clear. Ministers say that is in line with alarming advice. But it may also have to do with the fact that many construction projects are at a standstill. If nitrogen emissions go down faster, there will also be a green light for construction earlier.

These parties will be at the table tomorrow morning:

3. The way

Officially, nothing has been said about how nitrogen emissions in the Netherlands should go down. It is up to the provinces to decide on this in the coming year. Only when they do not come out, does the minister take over.

But Minister Van der Wal already says that the current number of farms and the number of animals โ€œcannot be combined with the goalsโ€. If it is up to the cabinet, farmers must stop. If they do not want that voluntarily, there is a threat of forced buyout Some farmers organizations find that unnegotiable.

Alternatively, farmers, for example, want more attention to be paid to innovations, which may reduce nitrogen emissions. Some politicians, such as the ruling party CDA, also advocate this.

4. Critical deposition value

A complicated term that is also on the table. Simply explained, it is the amount of nitrogen that a nature reserve can handle. If that amount of nitrogen is higher, animals and plants may suffer from it.

Ultimately, the cabinet wants the amount of nitrogen in most of the Dutch nature reserves not to exceed this value. But many farmers organizations find these values too unreliable to base policy on.

There is

also skepticism among scientists about how the government is now using the critical deposition value. Nitrogen professor Jan Willem Erisman, among others, says that โ€œit is not a magic button you press to get nature reserves back to healthโ€. The minister has already agreed to look into this.

5. PAS detectors

The fact that many peasant organizations assess the cabinet’s plans with suspicion is partly due to the so-called PAS detectors. These are farms that became illegal in one fell swoop in 2019 due to a court ruling. For years, the government allowed them to work without a nature permit, until the judge prohibited it.

The organizations at the table at Remkes reproach the cabinet that three years later hardly anything has been arranged for this group. They demand a solution before talking about the new plans. Their point is also: โ€œIf the cabinet does not solve this already, how will the rest be?โ€.

Also check out this timeline of the nitrogen crisis: