Remkes sends invitation to farmers: ‘Space for all ideas’

Mediator Johan Remkes has sent out the official invitation letter to farmers and nature organizations to talk to the cabinet in August. He wants to talk not only about the heavily criticized nitrogen plans, but also about the โ€œchallenges for nature, nitrogen, climate, water and the future of Dutch agricultureโ€, according to a press release from the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality.

The message states that โ€œthere is room for all ideas to realize the tasks that lie thereโ€. โ€œI see the conversations as a change: getting out of the impasse together,โ€ says Remkes. โ€œThe cabinet has assured me that there is space and joint solutions are possible.โ€ The letter does not make it clear what exactly he means by โ€œspaceโ€ and whether he opens the door for adapting the nitrogen plans.

Great anger and protests

So far, the cabinet has emphasized that the end goal must remain afloat during the mediation discussions. The goal is to reduce nitrogen emissions by 50 percent by 2030, which was a reason for a number of agricultural organizations, such as LTO, not to participate in the talks. LTO wants such a mediation discussion to also be about the content of the cabinet plans.

โ€œUntil the cabinet pledges that it can be seriously discussed about the purpose, timetable and implementation of measures, LTO unfortunately cannot accept the invitation to an interview led by Johan Remkes,โ€ says the organization.

According to farmers action group Agractie, the discussions should be about what it sees as achievable nitrogen targets with support and legalization of PAS detectors (farmers who could previously suffice with a report of nitrogen, but who now need a permit). โ€œWe will consider whether this conversation makes sense with regard to these points,โ€ says the organization. The action group also doubts Remkes independence.

Mediator Johan Remkes (71), confidant of Prime Minister Rutte, has already extinguished many political fires, such as in the province of Limburg, the municipality of The Hague and during the cabinet formation, but he is distrusted by the farmers. He is not the independent interlocutor they had in mind when ministers Van der Wal and Staghouwer proposed a mediator for the nitrogen problem.

โ€œNot subject to these termsโ€

Farmers Defence Force says it wants to consult with the members and other interest clubs first. โ€œA poll among the members shows that the vote is not to join under these conditions,โ€ says foreman Mark van den Oever. โ€œThere has to be a neutral person first, we belong among our supporters.โ€

In mid-June, Minister van der Wal proposed reducing nitrogen emissions by 70 percent in 131 areas. A map of the Netherlands showed in which areas farmers must drastically reduce their livestock in order to give the surrounding vulnerable nature reserves the opportunity to recover. The plans and the ticket led to great anger and protests among farmers and some opposition parties.

At

the beginning of July, the cabinet then appointed Remkes to calm down the high tempers as a mediator. Almost immediately there was criticism of his appointment, also because he is in favour of a strict nitrogen approach. The ministers thought Remkes was a good choice and so he started preparing the talks scheduled for August.

The talks will also include whether Minister Van der Wal for Nitrogen or Minister Staghouwer of Agriculture will also be present. Conversations are confidential and must begin on August 5. Remkes has invited dozens of organizations, not only farmers and nature organizations, but also banks and animal feed manufacturers.