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Ontario farmers feel their Dutch cousins’ pain

ONTARIO — Ontario farmers with links to Holland are watching the agricultural unrest in their ancestral homeland with a mixture of sympathy and concern — while thanking their lucky stars to be operating in Canada. Dutch farmers have rolled out tractorcades and tied up the streets of the Netherlands this summer in furious reaction to proposed environmental policies curtailing use of nitrogen fertilizer and cutting herd sizes.

After years of escalating and expensive regulatory requirements, Dutch farmers were like “a rat pushed into a corner” when the Dutch government proposed harsh new greenhouse gas cuts on the ag sector, says Marcel Smellink, an Iroquois-based farm realtor and cash-cropper who speaks daily with farmers in Holland. “This is the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

Weeks of protests that shut down highways drew as many as 40,000 Dutch farmers and were sparked when the Dutch government released a plan June 10 that would cut nitrogen fertilizer use 50 per cent by 2030 and almost completely eliminate its use in some cases. Nitrogen is applied to land as manure or as chemical fertilizer, releasing nitrous oxide, which is considered one of the main greenhouse gas and worse than carbon dioxide.

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