Remediation of pig farmers results in undesired nitrogen reduction

Fewer pig farmers than expected want to end their farms. As a result, the clean-up of pig farming will not result in the desired reduction in nitrogen emissions. This is reported by the Investico and EenVandaag Platform for Investigative Journalism, which is also reported by Trouw.

With a subsidy scheme, Minister Schouten wanted to buy out hundreds of pig farmers in order to reduce nitrogen emissions.

The study by Investico and EenVandaag shows that the scheme for pig farmers to quit was initially oversubscribed, but that a number of farmers are nevertheless abandoning the subsidy scheme to quit. They report that the Environmental Assessment Agency is too optimistic about the number of farmers who will quit.

Animo

In January it turned out that the enthusiasm for the buy-out scheme for pig farmers was much greater than expected. At the time, the ministry counted on some 300 applications, but in the end 503 farmers applied for the stop subsidy

The interest group for the pig sector, the POV, expects that 50 to 60% of the 407 pig farmers ultimately registered will actually quit, in other words more than 200. In April, the Planning Bureau based its calculations on 361 farms that will put an end to pig farming.

Marco Hol of agricultural consultancy DLV Advies from Uden confirms that roughly half of the notified pig farmers really want to quit. According to him, the reasons for whether or not to continue are very different: When the scheme was put in place, there was a threat of swine fever from Belgium and Germany. Some farmers came forward because they could still withdraw. It was therefore an additional option. Others were in a takeover process, from father to son. If the takeover could not go ahead, then the restructuring scheme was an option

Pig prices

According to Hol, the prices in the sector are no direct reason to participate or not. They always fluctuate. In the pig sector, 2019 was a good year. Currently prices are still above cost, so its not going as well as last year

In the province of North Brabant there is another reason: pig farmers have to comply with stricter provincial regulations with regard to emissions. Initially, these measures were to apply from 2028, but this was brought forward. The rules were brought forward from 2028 to 2022 and then to 2024. As a result, some pig farmers in Brabant will be able to continue farming for two years longer and will therefore not make use of the clean-up scheme, Hol explains.

Reaction of the Minister

Minister Schouten says in a reaction that she is sticking to the calculations of the Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis (PBL). The minister says that the regulation is still in progress and that she does not have an overall view. It is too early to say that it does not work, says Schouten. Next year, she says, it should become clear how many pig farmers will participate definitively and how much nitrogen space the clean-up will then provide.

According to political commentator Xander van der Wulp, the news is a setback for the minister. A few weeks ago, Schouten had to scrap another measure to reduce nitrogen, cattle feed. Farmers said at the time that this would not yield enough. You have to ask yourself whether you should not draw the conclusion that the governments nitrogen policy is failing. Its easy for them to count themselves rich without taking tough measures, said Van der Wulp.