Provincial parties are squabbling about nitrogen research, the deputy takes the report with him anyway

‘Nitrogen is not the main culprit when it comes to the deterioration of nature’ and ‘that nature is moving in the right direction’. In a nut village, these are the conclusions of a study by the Society for Agriculture and Nature Foundation.

BBB and PVV in the Provincial Council are using this research to convince the other parties that the policy on nitrogen and nature restoration must change.

This resulted in hours of debate about the scientific value of the research. “Not scientifically substantiated. Messy research. Unclear where what information comes from and from what source. Messy work. Only a few plant and animal species have been studied. This should not be called research.”

The criticism from CDA, GroenLinks, Party for the Animals, SP and PvdA and Volt was not mild. Both the coalition and the opposition have serious doubts about both the scientific content and the objectivity of the research.

The report of Henri Prins Nature in 2023, fall or rise was commissioned by the Society for Agriculture and Nature Foundation. This club was founded to give farmers a platform. Nothing wrong with that, according to PvdA and ChristenUnie, but that makes it far from objective.

Researcher Prins writes in the introduction, for example, that there is an “absurd nitrogen situation” and is therefore biased, is the conclusion of the critics. Gerben Brandsema of the ChristenUnie was brief, but clear: “We at WC-Eend advise WC-Eend.”

Research by Wageningen University & Research (WUR) showed last week that in almost half of the Dutch nature types that are sensitive to nitrogen, nature can handle less nitrogen precipitation than previously assumed. This means that nature is actually even more vulnerable due to nitrogen. These conclusions are diametrically opposed to those of Prins.

Wenda Bolhuis of the BBB acknowledged that the cited report of the foundation is not scientifically substantiated. Bolhuis says he wants to use the report to stop the polarization in the discussion about nitrogen and to solve it together. “We want to take measurements in Drenthe of nitrogen emission and nitrogen deposition and thus get out of the yes-no discussion.” BBB and PVV not only want a Drenthe follow-up study, but also a different measuring method. BBB has long wanted to get rid of the all-determining Critical Deposition Value (KDV).

VVD and Sterk Lokaal are sensitive to the arguments of BBB and PVV. Strong Local party chairman Alfred Schoenmaker: “We can only make policy with well-founded information, we must have objectivity before all farmers have left and it turns out that the method on which we based ourselves was wrong.”

VVD member Lisa Martens also wants to “seize opportunities to change nitrogen policy”, she says. “Our own nature target analyzes (NDAs) don’t give us the answers, just more questions.”

“The suggestion that this report is a reason to stop nature restoration is the head-in-the-sand method”, Sonja Hilgenga of the CDA agreed. BBB deputy Egbert van Dijk does not want that, because the nature target analyzes made by the province have so far been leading for policy making. But Van Dijk passes the report Nature in 2023, fall or rise include it in the so-called Interprovincial Consultation (IPO). Remarkable, because a large part of the Provincial Council is critical of the scientific status and objectivity of the research.

Van Dijk’s determination resulted in furrowed eyebrows at ChristenUnie States member Gerben Brandsma. “What criteria does the deputy use regarding whether or not to include investigations?” The deputy responds: “I want to know from my colleagues at the IPO how we should deal with this. I don’t want to brush this investigation off the table just like that.”

Due to all the discussion about the report, another BBB proposal was snowed under: BBB member Bolhuis proposes that Drenthe should have the same kind of scientific test as Lieftinghsbroek in Groningen. This is the oldest forest in Groningen and designated as a National Forest Reserve. The forest and the surrounding blue grassland are also sensitive to nitrogen. The nature reserve is enclosed by intensive agriculture that is locked. Farmers, nature managers, local residents and the authorities are working together in a committee on an area-oriented approach for Lieftinghsbroek.

The committee’s advice is based on additional nitrogen measurements, water and soil studies and discussions with area partners, local farmers and local residents. The aim: to restore nature, but also to give agriculture in the area a future. If nature recovers, nitrogen permits can also be granted again, or so the idea is.

An attempt by PVV member Bert Vorenkamp to invite researcher Henri Prins to the Provincial Council and explain his research will probably not make it. Forum for Democracy did not join the discussion, stating that “the whole nitrogen scandal is a big preconceived lie”.