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Farmers in Netherlands have formed their own version of Canada’s “freedom convoy”, blocking highways with tractors, setting fire to hay bales and taking other actions to protest the government’s recent emission reduction target that could force some farms to close.
“Where is our prime minister? This country is on fire and the farmers are opposing the government,” a spokesman for the protesters said, standing on top of a haystack in the town of Erbic last week, The Guardian reported.
Some 40,000 protesters gathered in the central Netherlands to protest plans to limit nitrogen and ammonia emissions last month. Weeks later, protests continue across the country and are not going to subside.
Photographs and videos show farmers stopping highways near the German border, with some Germans reportedly even joining the protest. As the Guardian reported on Saturday, hundreds of businesses in three cities were all but shut down due to three different protests. Meanwhile, some supermarkets have empty shelves as farmers also targeted distribution centers earlier this month.
Farmers say the protests are not meant to piss off their fellow citizens and consumers, but to force the government to hold a referendum.
The Dutch government aims to reduce nitrogen and ammonia emissions by 50% by 2030. air, land and water quality. Plans include reducing the fertilizer used on farms and reducing the number of livestock by about 30%.
The country is one of the largest agricultural producers in the world, exporting about $97 billion worth of fruits, flowers, vegetables, dairy products and meat in 2020.
“If you ask me now, I would say please don’t even think about it,” said farmer Jaap Segwaard about whether he would recommend farming to the younger generation. “There are so many worries. Life is too beautiful to deal with what is happening in the agricultural sector at the moment.”
“Ask the average farmer: it’s very sad,” he said.
Farmers say they are being treated unfairly by the rules, while other industries such as aviation, construction and transportation also contribute to emissions and face fewer regulations. Farmers also claimed that they were not given a clear idea of their future in light of the reforms.
Columns of tractors are a tribute Freedom convoys of CanadaThe Guardian reports that were held across Canada earlier this year to protest the country’s strict policy on coronavirus vaccines.
Fishermen in the Netherlands have also joined the protests by blockading the Harlingen port with trawlers last week, EuroNews reported.
The demonstrations have become so massive that Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger addressed farmers in Dutch during a concert in Amsterdam on Thursday.
Protests in the Netherlands gained more attention on Tuesday when police opened fire on a 16-year-old farmer driving a tractor in the northern part of the country during a protest. According to the German publication Deutsche Welle, the teenager allegedly pointed his tractor towards the police. Initially detained on suspicion of attempted murder, the teenager was released without charge. According to police, no one was hurt during the incident.
The protests were mostly peaceful, with one demonstration about 60 miles east of Amsterdam pulling off the road to miss two funeral processions. Farmers participating in the protest also distributed food and coffee to police officers, The Guardian reported.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Mark Rutte lashed out at the protesters, including calling them “assholes” at a private company, reports the Guardian.
“It is unacceptable to create dangerous situations. It is unacceptable to intimidate officials,” he said last week.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.