While the market is relatively stable now, what isn’t as stable is the relationship between farmers and governments across Europe. The Netherlands is the world’s 2nd biggest exporter of dairy products by value and its dairy industry is a source of great national pride. However there have been major farmer protests since summer 2022 after the current Dutch PM Mark Rutte committed to halving overall nitrogen emissions by 2030.
The government plans to reduce herd numbers by a third and a significant proportion of farms throughout the country face the prospect of compulsory buyouts. These plans have been met with a ferocious backlash from frustrated farmers fearing their livelihoods will be wiped out by force from the government. It has led to the formation of a new political party called Farmer-Citizen party.
This political movement has gained huge popularity in rural Netherlands and the protest movement has gathered a lot of sympathy from people throughout the country. The party took 15 seats (20% of the vote) in provincial senate elections back in March which is a phenomenal result for a brand-new political party. This demonstrates the movement has gathered a lot of momentum and Netherlands will be a litmus test for all the political pressure throughout Europe to reduce emissions and cut herd sizes. There were also big protests in Belgium back in March from farmers who took to the streets of Brussels to voice their anger over similar plans in Belgium to reduce emissions. Hundreds of tractors were driven into the heart of the EU capital Brussels which is a symbolic location for the protests to occur. The protests won’t stop any time soon so it will be fascinating to see if the political movements will gain enough traction to take power in some European countries over the next few years.