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Restrictions on Agriculture in the Netherlands


Erik Stokstad writing in Science commented on legal challenges to the 2015 Nitrogen Permit system in the Netherlands. The Government has imposed rigid restrictions on building permits to restrict expansion of dairy, hog and poultry farms. The most recent edict has frozen $17 billion worth of projects and has severely impacted agriculture. Effectively Holland has too many animals relative to the capacity to handle and dispose of manure.  Dutch agriculture produces half of the nitrogen liberated in the nation with the remainder from transport, power generation and industrial activity.


Livestock producers house four-times the level of biomass per unit of area in Holland compared to the average for the EU. Although soil injection of liquid manure and removal of ammonia from exhaust air of hog and poultry barns has reduced emissions, excess airborne nitrogen is responsible for smog, soil acidification and damage to the environment.


The proposal to move to “circular agriculture” limiting holdings by the capacity to spread and dispose of manure has the potential to reduce the livestock population by half in Holland.  Production efficiency would also be limited by imposing maximum levels of protein in animal feed.


The plight of farmers in Holland should carefully monitored by the intensive livestock industries of all industrialized nations.  Politicians respond to voter demands for improvements in environmental quality without understanding the implications of restrictions in terms of availability and cost of food.