Thousands of farmers drove their tractors along major roads across the Netherlands, rumbling through morning traffic as they headed for a mass protest against Dutch government plans to limit carbon dioxide emissions. nitrogen and ammonia.
The national infrastructure authority has urged motorists to delay their journeys as slow-moving tractor convoys defied calls not to use main roads as they headed into central Holland, where a village farmer farm in Stroe hosted the event.
In The Hague, near the Dutch parliament, a few dozen farmers and their supporters, some wearing T-shirts with the text: “No farmers, no food”, gathered for an early breakfast on Wednesday before heading for the demonstration.
“That’s where the rules are made,” said dairy farmer Jaap Zegwaard, who parked his tractor at the edge of a city park.
“I was asked to come here and provide breakfast so we can show that we are producers of food, not producers of pollution.”
Calling it an “inevitable transition”, the Dutch government earlier this month imposed emission reductions of up to 70% in many places near protected natural areas and up to 95% in other places.
The ruling coalition has earmarked a further €24.3bn (£22bn) to fund changes that are likely to force many farmers to drastically reduce their livestock numbers or get rid of them altogether.
The plans, which are to be carried out by provincial governments, have even clashed with members of Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s own party and others in his coalition.
Agriculture is a key sector of the Dutch economy, with exports worth nearly €105bn (£90bn) last year.
But this comes at the cost of producing polluting gases, despite measures taken by farmers to reduce emissions.
Mr Zegwaard said farmers were ready to talk about how to reduce emissions.
“Now the agricultural sector is being dismissed as a major polluter and that’s not fair,” he said.