Climate crackdown on farmers sets a risky precedent

By: Rachel Marsden

PARIS — Dual crises hitting food and energy supply have world leaders — particularly in the West — scrambling to fix the messes that they’ve made. The reasons for the crises are various and debatable, but the role of Western policies is undeniable.

We’re talking about the same leaders who poked the Russian bear relentlessly until the bear finally had enough, sparking a war in one of the world’s breadbaskets. They then cancel-cultured their own energy supplies with sanctions, all because the sources were Russian. The result? Light, heat, and water rationing in Germany — the primary economic force of the European Union. A panicked drive to get a handle on global energy supply and costs as U.S. President Joe Biden’s heads to Saudi Arabia this week. And a European U-turn on prior commitments to climate change measures that were supposed to involve the phasing out of fossil fuel and nuclear power in favor of renewable “green” energy. Last week, the EU parliament voted instead to simply reclassify gas and nuclear as “green”. The move allows EU countries to wriggle free from the green straitjacket that had left them scrambling for adequate sovereign and independent energy supply amid their self-imposed Russian energy import ban.

You’d think that these folks would have learned their lesson. Specifically, that they would have understood that they should refrain from their big government overreach and meddling under purely ideological pretexts — green, anti-Russian, or otherwise — particularly in the absence of viable, realistic alternatives.

But now at least one European country — the Netherlands — is doubling down in prioritizing climate ideology above critical food supply needs, despite the global food crisis. And the result is a revolt. Dutch farmers on their tractors have begun blocking supermarkets and highways — even coming under “warning shot” fire from police — to protest a green crackdown on their business. The unrest started when Dutch lawmakers voted to give provincial governments one year to come up with a plan to reduce farm emissions like nitrogen oxide and ammonia, produced by animal waste or fertilizer, by 50 percent by the year 2030 (and up to 75 percent in “nature reserve” areas), and to cut the number of cattle by a third.

These poor cattle that give us milk and meat have long been the subject of radical environmentalists’ obsessions for allegedly contributing to climate change through their belching and wind-breaking. “Scientists are working on ways to reduce those emissions, including by breeding animals that burp less, adjusting their diets so they produce less methane and planting trees in pastures,” reports Reuters, citing experts that consider the animals as polluting as transport.

Dutch media reports that the straw that broke the cattle’s back for the farmers — whose cattle represent the largest meat exports in the EU — was when the government and its proposed mediator claimed that closures or compulsory government buyouts of offending farms were on the table, if not inevitable.

In pressuring the farmers, Dutch lawmakers are merely letting the manure roll downhill from the European Union’s supranational government whose rules are imposed on all of its member states with limited exceptions for national sovereignty. This is the same EU government whose climate policies were so disastrous to its own nations’ economies that they had to reclassify fossil fuel as green because they ultimately can’t afford to support the cost of their own ideological extremism.

In 2019, the Dutch Council of State deemed the government in violation of European regulations. “According to European rules, farmers are not allowed to spread more than 170 kilos of nitrogen from animal manure per hectare of land,” the Dutch public broadcaster, NOS, has reported.

So now private property rights risk being tossed out the window in at least one European nation under environmental pretext. What a horrendous precedent to set — not just for the Netherlands, but also for the rest of Europe and the western world. All of this comes at a time when farmers are facing the added burden of higher energy and feed costs due to those dual global crises.

Before anyone brings up factory farming in particular as a particular environmental problem that needs to be curtailed, recall that it was the EU itself, through its policies of bigger subsidies for bigger farms, that encouraged it. French farmers have long complained of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, with the spokesman for the third largest French farmers’ union, Nicolas Girod of the Confédération Paysanne, describing government approach to farming an “economic dictatorship, both at the French level and at the global level.”

What we’re witnessing in the Netherlands is yet another example of the EU trying to fix a problem that it created in the first place with its heavy handed big government policies. The solution to this and other crises in the EU and beyond isn’t more Western big government intervention — in the interests of climate change or otherwise. Rather, it’s to back off from socialist-style experiments and make room for some sanity and common sense.