‘Small group of farmers responsible for extremely high nitrogen emissions’ | NOW



A small group of a few dozen agricultural businesses around protected nature areas emit a disproportionate amount of nitrogen, which means that road and housing construction in that region is at a standstill. This is evident from a calculations by investigative journalism platform Investico on Wednesday De Groene Amsterdammer and Faithful.

The journalists come up with a list of 25 agricultural companies that are located close to a vulnerable Natura 2000 area and that emit a lot of nitrogen, causing relatively the most damage. The researchers rely on permit registers from provinces and data from more than nineteen thousand livestock farms.

Of the 25 companies with the highest ammonia emissions within 250 meters of a nature reserve, 17 are located in the province of Gelderland. The two largest polluters in the list are located in Ermelo, in the Veluwe.

For example, a turkey farmer from Ermelo emits 61 times as much nitrogen in nature as an ‘average’ cattle farmer. This farm of 24,000 turkeys is responsible for more nitrogen precipitation annually than the national speed reduction of up to 100 kilometers per hour saved.

Six companies from the top 25 are located in Noord-Brabant; The number three is located in Haaren, near the Loonse en Drunense Duinen and the Leemkuilen. The two other companies are located in Limburg.

The cabinet recognizes that there are peak loads, but does not want to impose obligations on those companies; it hopes for a voluntary application for a buy-back scheme. Minister Carola Schouten of Agriculture said last week The Financial Times that she is not there to buy out farmers. “For me it’s about farmers being able to make the switch to a more sustainable way of farming.”

Fewer new houses due to high emissions

The nitrogen emitted by this handful of companies has an impact on the number of houses that can be built in the region.

In more than a hundred municipalities close to Natura 2000 areas, housing construction has fallen faster than average due to the nitrogen problem, it was announced in October. In areas no more than 5 kilometers from Natura 2000 areas, housing construction decreased by 7.2 percent in 2019.

The nitrogen problem arose in May 2019 when the Council of State ended the Nitrogen Approach Program (PAS). Permits were granted through that program for construction projects near Natura 2000 areas.

With these permits, the nitrogen deposition after construction could be compensated, but the European Court of Justice concluded that the PAS does not act in accordance with European guidelines to protect nature.

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