Schouten swallows tears in phosphate debate: ‘Never had such a difficult dossier. ‘

Demissionary Minister Schouten van Agriculture, in a debate in the House of Representatives, told tears about the choices made about the distribution of phosphate rights. The minister emotionally thought back to stories of farmers who experience suffering through the system.

“When I just heard your input, I realized how much this file hurts,” Schouten said to the other members of the Standing Committee on Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality. “A lot has happened in recent years, including the peasant protests. I‘ve never experienced a hard record like this before.”

See how Schouten swallowed her tears:

It’s about the system that determines how much manure can be produced by dairy cattle per farm. By limiting that, the excretion of phosphate in the Netherlands should be reduced, in order to get below the European ceiling for phosphate excretion.

Since 2018, farmers have been charged a levy per animal they have received in recent years. That has put some farmers in financial trouble. Schouten says they get emotioned by stories of such farmers.

Meeting farmers who have come into financial difficulties is a difficult issue, Schouten said in the debate. Coulance for such bottlenecks would lead to a higher levy in other groups. “It was a solidarity issue. There have been choices that have been painful to everyone,” the minister said.

There is no simple solution, because the Netherlands must comply with European environmental rules first, says Schouten. “If I had a creative solution, I would implement it right away.”