The EU has forced a farmer to “pull the plug” on his family’s 90-year-old dairy farm after he was deemed a “peak polluter”. Following a three-year battle with the Dutch government to protect his business, Hans van Wijk will have to demolish his barn to stop him from keeping cattle. The order is part of the government’s attempts to hit EU pollution targets.
The Natura 2000 is a network of land where rare and threatened species live. It spans 27 EU countries, including land and sea.
EU member states are expected to ensure Natura 2000 sites are “managed in a sustainable manner”. That means not going over nitrogen emissions targets set by the EU.
Behind the Dutch government’s strict measures
In 2016, environmental activists filed a lawsuit to the EU Court of Justice. They claimed the government had failed to protect the area from nitrogen runoff.
Since then, the Dutch government has set a target of reducing livestock numbers by more than 35 million by 2030.
Mr van Wijk, whose farm is within the EU’s Natura 2000 protected region, shared the devastating moment he closed the old farm on Facebook.
On Friday, he said: “Tonight was the last time we milked our cows. After 90 years, this is it for the organic dairy sector. We aren’t allowed to continue because we were labelled a ‘peak polluter’. We fought for 3 years.”
The Dutch authorities recently warned it will buy out 3,000 farms polluting the most ammonia and nitrogen oxide unless changes are made. These measures include either cutting livestock numbers, quitting the industry completely, or relocating.
It comes days after thousands of farmers from Flanders in Belgium blocked the roads of Brussels to protest similar measures by their own regional government.
Farmers in the Netherlands are also planning to stage a mass tractor protest outside the Hague in Brussels.