Dutch government scraps divisive feed measure

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A proposal by the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Quality to limit the addition of proteins in feed concentrates for dairy cattle in an effort to reduce Dutch nitrogen emissions led to strong opposition from the farm sector.

In May 2020, Dutch Agriculture Minister, Carola Schouten, announced that she intended to temporarily limit the use of proteins in feed as of September 1, until the end of 2020, in order to attain a reduction of 0.2 kilotons in nitrogen emissions. Through this measure, the ministry hoped to create space for the construction of 75,000 new homes this year, which would also generate emissions.

In the end, however, the ministry elected to scrap the feed measure due to a recent period of drought in the Netherlands, noted a US Department of Agriculture (USDA) GAINS report.

“Researchers from Wageningen University indicated that this year’s precipitation deficit has led to a shortage of fresh, protein-rich pasture grass across the Netherlands, one of the most important components of a cow’s diet. Now that cows are getting less protein from eating grass, the protein content in concentrates must be increased in order not to endanger the health of the cows. The effect of the ministry’s feed measure would therefore be nullified. As a result, Minister Schouten announced she would no longer pursue the implementation of the ministry’s proposal.”

Dutch dairy farming by the numbers 

The feed measure was one of the proposals put forward by an external advisory committee that was tasked last year by the Dutch ministry of agriculture to look for ways to reduce nitrogen-based pollution in the Netherlands after the highest court in the country, the Council of State, ruled that the government had to reduce emissions in order to meet its climate goals.

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