Mongabay publications has introduced a three-part miniseries to their outlet, all discussing how the nitrogen crisis is growing across local farms and the agricultural industry in the Netherlands. Thanks to a majorly successful agricultural sector, the Netherlands has become one of the world’s biggest food producers and exporters; despite its quaint size. Because it has the highest density of cattle, the Netherlands has been undergoing a nitrogen crisis for many years now. Intensive food systems such as meat and dairy production hubs have been tearing through parts of Europe and South America over the last few decades.
The De Hoge Veluwe National Park is just one victim to this crisis. Sitting as the largest national park in the Netherlands, the Veluwe oaks are cracking under the industrial pressure. The 55-square-kilometer wildlife refuge has over 172 species of birds, various insects and other native species that are crumbling in tandem. Dairy farms surround the borders of the parks, encasing the refuge in a ditch of suffocation. Livestock has become the single biggest contributor to the nitrogen crisis, and placing these farms near any sort of biodiverse hub can have disastrous consequences.
Nestled in a photographic setting, Jan Dirk’s dairy farm sits about 30 miles away from the De Hoge Veluwe National Park. A generational farm, Dirk inherited the land during the usage of intensive production, genetically modified herds, and heavy amounts of imported feed. Upon his production, he mainly used artificial nitrogen, as this gave higher yields from the field. Then 20 years later, he started farming organically, leaving antibiotics and the “technical” system behind.
In a necessary response to try and fix the nitrogen crisis, the Dutch government announced in 2022 that it would aim to halve the nitrogen emissions from all livestock. In turn, local and industrial farmers spread announcements of outrage that sparked a nation-wide protest—confused by previous goal regulations to produce high quantities of eggs, milk, and cheese to meet the government’s export targets. As a result of the quick change of legislation and exportation targets, a new political party and movement was created, the Farmers-Citizens Movement.
Despite months of farmer protests, the Dutch government has moved forward with their attempt to alter its agricultural sector to become more sustainable. But, with obvious response, there is a large division in the Netherlands over how intense and extensive these reforms should be. And due to the large clash between the sections [green government and industry], many pieces of legislation were barely passed this summer. Most ecological experts are skeptical that there is any quick fix to the nitrogen crisis. They say that the ammonia emissions from the livestock have been flowing out of these farms for too long now that the only way to reduce any type of emission is to reduce the number of livestock at the farms. Researchers at Wageningen, the top agricultural research university, have suggested that there will be an unavoidable transition away from the meat and dairy industry in order to combat emissions and climate change.