Prime Minister Rutte has apologised to farmers organizations, among other things, for the communication around the nitrogen map presented by the cabinet at the beginning of June. He announced this after the discussions he and mediator Remkes had today with stakeholders in the nitrogen issue.
At the beginning of June, nitrogen minister Van der Wal presented a map indicating how much nitrogen reduction should be achieved per area. The map led to a great fuss at farmers organization LTO Nederland and the action groups Agractie and Farmers Defence Force, among others.
Not jumping to conclusions
In his statement, Rutte does not distance himself from the map. According to him, it shows the actual situation, but farmers cannot directly deduce how much nitrogen they will soon be allowed to emit. According to him, the map leads to great confusion.
“We care about these misunderstandings and we have made excuses for that,” says Rutte. He agreed that the cabinet will “improve communication”.
According to mediator Remkes, the card will no longer be central to the follow-up interviews. “The card is not of such importance or accuracy that the individual farmer can draw conclusions from this.”
The map also led to criticism among nitrogen experts. For example, Professor of Environment and Sustainability Jan Willem Erisman of Leiden University said that the map is far too detailed, giving the impression that all percentages per area are already fixed.
Despite the fuss that the map initially caused, Van der Wal has emphasized on several occasions that she remains behind its publication. However, she nuanced, among other things, in a letter she sent to MPs on 15 July that the map “not a blueprint that provinces should apply one-on-one”.
Provinces have the space to give it their own colouring. She also spoke of a “charcoal sketch, a starting point”.
Lots of hot issues
At first, the provinces were unpleasantly surprised by the map. For example, Drenthe announced that it would not use it. Van der Wals words reassured the provinces somewhat. The Interprovincial Consultation (IPO) responded to the letter that it is “satisfied that the map image is off the table. It is now up to the provinces to fill in how they deal with the nitrogen problem.”
But even without a card, there are still many hot issues for farmers organizations. Map or not: the cabinet still wants the total nitrogen emissions in the Netherlands to be 50 percent lower by 2030. And a large part of that must be borne by the farmers sector.