Some Canadian farmers have joined in solidarity with their farm counterparts in the Netherlands over government targets to reduce nitrogen emissions.  Last week, several provincial capital cities, as well as Ottawa, saw slow-rolling tractor convoys.  Along with sympathy protests for Dutch farmers, some Canadian farmers are condemning Ottawa’s plan to reduce nitrogen fertilizer emissions by 30%.  While the target year of 2030 coincides, the policies set out by the Dutch government and Canadian emission targets are fundamentally different. The Dutch government has mandated nitrogen emission cuts for its overall agriculture industry by an average of more than 50%. The Canadian government says it hopes to reach a 30% reduction specifically from nitrogen fertilizers.


A farmer from Belleville, Ontario, near Ottawa, who has farming relatives in the Netherlands, says he is protesting in solidarity with his Dutch cousins.  Lyle De Boer is concerned the Canadian government could escalate its emission targets in this country.  But he said he’s especially angry that firm mandates set by the Dutch government will push his farming relatives in the Netherlands out of business.


“They want to cap nitrogen emissions by a significant amount. And the result of that is reduction of livestock and reduction of fertilizers and things of that nature. Ultimately, what that means is small farmers going out of business and it means big farms producing less food.”


In Canada the nitrogen emission reduction targets will most affect field crop producers. Conversely, the Dutch government mandates are expected to hit the Netherlands large livestock industry hard.  Norman Smith, a dairy farmer near Regina, Saskatchewan, says the Dutch government mandates are too severe.


“The government is trying to put all these family farms out of business. For example, I was reading this story about one farmer. He has to cull 95% of his dairy herd, just because he lives next door to a forest.”


The president of Agricultural Producers of Saskatchewan, Ian Boxall, said that while he sympathizes with Dutch farmers, he says the Canadian government’s 30% target goal unfairly targets field crop producers in his province.


"Producers care more about the environment than we ever get credit for. Which is frustrating, because we are the first ones that say any type of change. It affects our bottom line every day. I do not believe, with the way we apply or fertilizer in Saskatchewan, 80 percent of it is probably put in the ground at the time of seeding. We don’t have huge emissions.”


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