By Frank Giles
Environmental green movements have gained worldwide traction in recent years as governments take action to combat climate change. The quest for net-zero carbon emissions and other environmental concerns has led some countries to place restrictions on agriculture.
Those restrictions, on paper, might appear good for the climate, but are not always good for food production. This has set off protests from growers who don’t want government dictates on how to farm.
In the Netherlands, plans to cut emissions of nitrous oxide and ammonia by 50% by 2030 have generated protest among farmers there. These cuts focus on livestock production and fertilizer usage. Growers insist the reductions are not realistic, especially on such a short timeframe.
The Dutch government is seemingly comfortable with the prospect of losing agricultural production. “The honest message … is that not all farmers can continue their business,” and those who do will likely have to farm differently, the government said in a statement as it unveiled emission-reduction targets.
Nearly 40,000 farmers gathered in the country’s heartland of agricultural production to protest. Many traveled to the protest on their tractors, snarling highway traffic.
“I think there are a lot of sort of delusional ideas among environmental advocates, environmental nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and academics that get picked up in places like Europe by policymakers, who then try to impose [them] onto farmers and other folks who have to actually live under these policies,” Ted Nordhaus, executive director of the Breakthrough Institute, a global research center, said in an interview. “And the reaction we’re seeing [from the protesters] is pretty representative of the degree to which these ideas are pretty out of touch with the basic, biochemical, economic realities of the global agriculture system.”
Farmers in Germany, Italy, Spain and Poland have taken to the streets as well to protest the prospect of similar emission cuts. In addition, protests also focus on rising input costs and inflationary pressure growers blame on government policies.
SRI LANKA IN CHAOS
Nowhere has the upheaval been more evident than in Sri Lanka. Protesters camped outside of the presidential residence for months. They blame corruption for Sri Lanka’s economic troubles. One major point of contention is the government mandate that farmers in the country convert their production to organic practices.
The conversion banned the use of synthetic fertilizers. The ban also contributed to a 20% drop in rice production within the first six months, while prices for the staple rose by 50%. As a result, Sri Lanka went from being self-sufficient in rice production to having to import rice at a cost of $450 million. Vegetable prices rose by five times from what they were the year before.
While the government was forced to reverse its order, the damage already was done. On July 9, thousands of protestors gathered outside the presidential residence swarmed the building. In response, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled the country. A new leader has been installed, but protests continue.
While Sri Lanka’s transition to organic production won praise from NGOs, the reality of the move told a different story. Officials from the World Economic Forum suggested that Sri Lanka’s efforts to curb climate change — including the organic transition — would make the country rich by 2025. That clearly was not the outcome. Now the country faces starting over and rebuilding its economy.
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