Farmers block the borders: ‘Want to show people what standing still is’

Although the positions of the farmers protesting at the border crossings between the Netherlands and Belgium are harsh, the atmosphere at the blockades was friendly on Friday morning. To withstand the cold, a few large fires have been lit, surrounded by plastic chairs. And farmers, who eat a sausage roll or a healthy sandwich. Jan is one of the protesting farmers. “We want to show people what a standstill is with these blockades. For those people who are stuck in traffic here, it is only one day.”

Profile photo of Noël van Hooft

“Farms in Belgium have been at a standstill for three years, in terms of permits,” Jan explains on the E19 near Hazeldonk. “According to a new decree in Belgium, we cannot do anything in Belgium regarding permits for the next six years. Only reduce, become smaller and smaller.”

And so action must be taken, they believe. “We have called together our Dutch colleagues to form a united front against all those useless rules, against all that nonsense. We should do this throughout Europe, a collaboration between different countries. This is for the youth, we are doing this for the young farmers. Actions are desperately needed, even if they cause inconvenience. If we don’t do this now, there will be no farmers left.”

“It is no longer possible for us to farm in a normal way.”

Farmer Piet from Deurne is one of the Dutch farmers participating in the border blockades. He is on the road towards Lommel. “To support our Belgian colleagues and also to emphasize our problems in the Netherlands. Now we are getting attention. Let’s hope it does something.”

Diomy from Steenbergen takes action on the E19 near Hazeldonk. “We stand here for our future,” she explains. “Because the government has been trying to shrink the farming sector for a long time, especially the livestock. And because of the nitrogen regulations. It is no longer possible for us to farm in a normal way.”

She has the impression that the blockade is successful. “Everyone who drives by here honks and gives us a thumbs up,” she says with satisfaction. “We hope that this will allow us to calculate what we want: that the government’s eyes will open and that it might become more lenient and help to relax the rules.”

“We are never listened to.”

The farmers block the border crossings with the aim of halting international transport traffic. “The import of goods, especially food,” explains campaigner Johan on the A67. “Very cheap food from abroad is brought into Belgium and the Netherlands. What do you get? Unfair competition for the farmers here. We hope that the supermarkets here notice what happens when they do not receive those international products.”

This is what happens during the farmers’ protests at the border crossings:

Photo: Noël van Hooft
Photo: Noël van Hooft

Photo: Noël van Hooft
Photo: Noël van Hooft