The Dutch agriculture minister resigned on Monday evening following a tumultuous summer fraught with mass demonstrations by Dutch farmers protesting the government’s decision to impose tough emissions targets on the sector.
Henk Staghouwer had only been in the job since January. He faced vociferous opposition to the Dutch government’s attempts to comply with a Dutch court ruling in 2019 to cut nitrogen emissions from farms in order to uphold EU environmental regulations.
The final straw was the response to Staghouwer this week when he agreed with a European Union proposal to cut the amount of manure that Dutch farmers were allowed to use on their fields.
All summer, Dutch agricultural workers have caused headaches for the government, jamming crucial road networks with tractor caravans and blocking supermarket distribution hubs in several cities, with farmers saying they are worried that the proposed plans would be terminal for the industry.
Dutch farmers ramp up protests against government’s crippling environmental demands
Agricultural workers have staged several disruptive protests over the Dutch government’s measures to reduce nitrogen emissions
Protests have been met by a robust response from the authorities, with Europe shocked earlier this year at viral footage of shots being fired towards protestors and farmers being taken out of their tractors at gunpoint.
At a short press conference on Monday evening where he announced his resignation, Staghouwer admitted he was simply not the right man for the job.
“I have asked myself if I was the right person to oversee the tasks in front of me … I came to the conclusion last weekend that I am not that person.”
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte tweeted that he respected Staghouwer’s “brave decision,” while others have been more critical and questioned how he was tasked with the job in the first place.
Bart Kemp of the farmers’ organization Agractie told Dutch public broadcaster NOS that Staghouwer was “a friendly man, but not a decisive person.”
The role will filled temporarily by former Agricultural Minister Carola Schouten.