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EU farmers win important battle

An article in last week’s Times Age about how the EU had watered down its environmental policies in the wake of farmer protests told me that the European farmers had won what had been a one-sided battle.

There had been farmer protests throughout the EU over some of the crazy environmental restrictions that had been proposed.

The protests were, in some cases, violent, with local farmers at their non-negotiable best. You would have seen it on television. There were motorways blocked by tractors, manure spread over streets and burnt hay bales, among other activities.

It would seem that common sense won the day, with the EU abandoning two-thirds of its excessive and impractical environmental rules. Just as importantly, smaller farmers won’t have to comply with any of the ridiculous rules and regulations, and that’s the majority of EU farms.

Using Holland as an example, it is the world’s second-largest exporter of agricultural products behind the USA.

They’re about 15 per cent the size of New Zealand, and last year the Dutch agricultural sector earned over NZ$160 billion, that’s three times more than we did.

Holland saw some angry and violent farmer protests over the Dutch government’s climate change policies, which included a decree that would close 20 per cent of all farms, that’s 11,200 properties. Another 17,600 farmers must reduce the number of animals they farm. That means 20 per cent of farms closed completely and a further 30 per cent had to cut production.

The farms taken out of production will become nature reserves. About 25 billion euro has been committed for compensation. It has since needed an additional E24b.

The issue isn’t methane, as it is here, but nitrogen and ammonia, the latter coming mainly from housed animals.

There is also a complete lack of commentary on the inevitable loss of food. There’s a crisis now with McKinsey telling us there will be a food deficit that represents a year’s worth of nutritional intake for up to 250 million people.

That’s massive.

So, whether it was good sense or farmer militancy that prevailed, who would know, but it would seem that European farmers won the day to keep farming, to keep producing food.

All of the EU countries except Germany voted for the reforms, so they are obviously here to stay, which is good news.

The question I have involves the recent Free Trade Agreement [FTA] between the European Union and New Zealand.

In it, there’s a statement that the parties agree ‘to refrain from any action on emissions which materially defeats the objects and purpose of the Paris Agreement’.

My question would be to ask if the EU has abandoned those principles and should New Zealand follow?

    Alan Emerson is a semi-retired writer, farmer and businessman living in Wairarapa. He writes a weekly column for Farmers Weekly and has written and/or edited five books.

Roger Parker
Roger Parker
Roger Parker is the Times-Age news director. In the Venn-diagram of his two great loves, news and sport, sports news is the sweet spot.

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