Phosphate Quota Troubles Dutch Farmers

Phosphate Quota Troubles Dutch Farmers

The Netherlands, a country famous for their liberal approach to social issues, tulips, windmills and of course cheese, now faces new issues due to an excess in phosphate-rich cow manure. As a (founding) member of the European Union (E.U.), the Netherlands, just like any other member, is bound to certain laws set by the E.U., which also includes a phosphate quota. This means that there is a maximum amount of phosphate that each country is allowed to emit. Such a quota is in place because phosphate is a gas that in large quantities is harmful to the environment due to its influence on global warming.

This law (quota) had already been in place but has gotten renewed attention in the Netherlands this week because it turns out that there is an excess of cow manure. This excess is a recent development because the European Union removed the milk quota April 1st, 2015 after it had been in place since 1984, which resulted in many Dutch milk famers wanting to expand their business and increase their milk production. Hence, many investments were made by these farmers; buying land, building larger and more modern facilities and of course increasing the number of cows. Now that it has come to light that the cow farmers cannot continue to have it their way, many of them will potentially end up with financial discomforts, to put it lightly. Having already made the investments for new land and facilities, they are now unable to up their production significantly enough to make it worthwhile, meaning that they’re forced to operate at a loss, making it impossible for them to pay back their bank loans or other investors.

Thankfully, there is a potential temporary solution. As previously mentioned, every EU country has a certain value of phosphate emission they can put out without worries for retaliations. However, some countries, who for example, do not have quite so many cows, or other phosphate emitting sources, may be able to rent out the difference between their actual phosphate emissions and their legally condoned phosphate emissions to the Netherlands, to accommodate for the surplus. Nevertheless, the farmers are still left with great uncertainty with regards to their future and their investments. This will only temporarily cut losses and can definitely not be considered a long term solution.

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