Meat & Livestock News

Is the Tide Starting to Turn on EU Climate Policies?


  • European farmers protest against restrictive agricultural climate policies, questioning their impact and feasibility.
  • Political shifts and public dissatisfaction with the cost of green policies amidst high inflation may signal a change in direction.
  • Dutch farmers’ political victory and negotiations on nitrogen laws highlight a potential shift towards more practical environmental strategies.

As election season unfolds across Europe, with the European Parliament elections set for May and many countries holding local elections, a significant question arises: Are we witnessing a shift in the European Union’s approach to climate policies, particularly those affecting agriculture?

Dubbed the “greenest ever,” the current European Parliament has pushed for ambitious climate policies, including reducing fertiliser and pesticide use, cutting livestock numbers, and imposing strict import standards. However, these measures have sparked controversy among farmers and scientists alike, with concerns over their practicality and scientific basis.

In a vivid display of discontent, thousands of European farmers have taken to major cities like Paris, Brussels, and Berlin, using tractors and hay bales to voice their opposition. These protests have prompted some reevaluation of the policies, with the European Parliament recently abandoning a plan to halve pesticide use by 2030 and initiating strategic consultations.

The backdrop of high inflation, exacerbated by the Russia/Ukraine conflict, has intensified public scrutiny of these climate policies. George Lyon, a former UK Liberal Democrat politician and political consultant, notes a shift in public sentiment, with the cost of living concerns overtaking climate priorities.

This economic pressure, coupled with a growing dissatisfaction with government directives on lifestyle choices, suggests a potential pivot in policy focus.

A notable catalyst for change was the Dutch farmers’ response to proposed nitrogen pollution reduction measures, which would have closed thousands of livestock farms. Their protests, marked by dramatic actions like blocking supermarket distribution centres and setting silage bags on fire, led to a political victory for a farmer-based party in The Netherlands.

This victory has not only brought the nitrogen laws back to the negotiation table but also signalled to other countries the potential for farmer-led political influence.

Despite the protests and political upheavals, the agricultural sector’s commitment to environmental stewardship remains strong. The difference lies in the approach. Farmers and large supply chain companies advocate for emission reductions through efficiency and economic viability rather than outright bans on pesticides and fertilisers.

This pragmatic stance, favouring tools like gene editing over ideological bans, suggests a path forward that balances environmental goals with practical agricultural practices.

In summary, while the commitment to environmental causes among European farmers is unwavering, the method of achieving these goals is under scrutiny. The recent political and public pushback against restrictive policies may herald a more balanced, practical approach to climate and agricultural policy in the EU.