A bright spot in the nitrogen dossier: more than two hundred farmers have already registered for a buy-out scheme

Finally a bright spot in the nitrogen dossier that the now fallen Rutte IV cabinet has been yearning for in recent months: in less than two weeks, more than two hundred farmers have submitted an application to be bought out by the government.

Sources within the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (LNV) contradict this NRC. If these farms actually stop, this will reduce nitrogen emissions significantly in one fell swoop. There is a good chance that more farmers will sign up.

Since 3 July, the government has opened two cessation schemes: one for companies that emit a lot of nitrogen close to or in vulnerable nature areas, so-called peak loaders, and one for other (farming) companies. The fall of the cabinet does not stand in the way of these voluntary buy-out schemes. They were approved by Brussels in May, and almost 1.5 billion euros are available for them. Two-thirds of this is for the peak loaders.

The vast majority of the applications submitted concern peak loaders. They want to make use of the scheme that pays 120 percent of its value in the event of a strike of the company. Outgoing minister Christianne van der Wal (Nature and Nitrogen, VVD) previously called this “desperately attractive”. Farmers who are not peak taxers receive less money: a maximum of 100 percent of their business value.

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According to director Paul Bens of DLV Advies, the largest agricultural consultancy in the Netherlands, the number of applications will continue to rise. His agency has assisted about fifty companies in submitting the application and has ‘many more in the pipeline’.

Bens also sees that farmers in the Veluwe nature reserve are realizing that they can also be a peak loader with relatively few animals. “The municipality of Barneveld has held several meetings in recent weeks in which it says that every farm in Barneveld is a peak loader.” The question is what those companies will do, says Bens, but there is a good chance that a fair number of them will also sign up.

Read also: The Cabinet will be happy if one in five peak payers allows themselves to be bought out

In Gelderland in particular, the number of peak loaders is high, but until now the enthusiasm to stop has been small, as was already apparent from a tour of NRC. Of the three thousand (farming) companies that are entitled to the scheme for large emitters, 1,803 are located in Gelderland. To be able to participate in the very generous buy-out scheme, companies may be located no more than 25 kilometers from a vulnerable nature reserve and they must deposit at least 2,500 mol (unit) of nitrogen in an overburdened nature reserve.

Van der Wal already emphasized in June that it is not necessary for all three thousand companies to stop, but that it is already “very good” if a fifth of that group stops, or six hundred companies.

Website heavily visited

Since mid-June, farmers can use a website of the government to calculate whether they meet the conditions. That site has been visited a lot since then. Such a calculation has been made more than thirty thousand times, according to sources within the Ministry of Agriculture. The Netherlands has approximately fifty thousand farms. It is not known whether farmers made the calculation several times.

An application for the peak load scheme is processed immediately. The Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO) will review the more than two hundred applications in the near future. The service previously supervised a provincial buy-out scheme for the Ministry of Agriculture. The applications for the less generous scheme will be assessed from the end of this year, early 2024.

The Ministry of Agriculture confirms that there is “the necessary interest” in the termination arrangements, but after two weeks it is “too early to draw conclusions”.