Constructive talks between farmers and Cabinet, but mistrust runs deep

THE HAGUE - The politician leading talks between the Cabinet and farmers' organizations said the two sides had a "constructive conversation” on Friday. Still, the former interior minister acknowledged there is a "serious crisis of confidence" between the government and the agricultural sector. This is not just because of the recent rancor over the nitrogen emissions policy, he also emphasized. 


After the meeting, Prime Minister Mark Rutte apologized for a map meant to detail allowable nitrogen emissions per area; images which the Cabinet previously unveiled. He acknowledged that the map, which was meant to depict the reduction of nitrogen emissions, has led to "great confusion" and "misunderstandings" among farmers. 


Many farmers deduced from the map how much less nitrogen they themselves will be allowed to emit, but "it doesn't work that way” in practice, according to the prime minister. Rutte promised that the Cabinet will "improve communication.” 


LTO chair Sjaak van der Tak affirmed that he saw some progress in achieving compromise on the nitrogen issue after a "firm and tough conversation.” But as far as he's concerned, it's not enough to continue further at this point. 

"The ball is in the Cabinet’s court,” he said. It’s on them to attempt to regain “the confidence of our farmers and horticulturists." 


The consultation led by Remkes lasted about an hour longer than planned. Remkes was supposed to give a statement at the provincial house in Utrecht at 1:30 p.m but that happened closer to 3 p.m. Different opinions about the atmosphere during talks emerged while reporters waited for the news conference. 


A spokesperson for Remkes told waiting journalists that the atmosphere was "fine,” but agricultural organization LTO then firmly said this was not the case. 


"We have expressly requested that this reporting be omitted and not to add to the noise with one-sided reporting," the LTO said in a tweet. "It is indicative of the actions of the government in recent times; unilaterally and without coordination." 

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