Dutch agriculture minister resigns amid farmers’ protests, admits he wasn’t ‘right person’ for the job

Henk Staghouwer’s resignation is the latest act in a long-running drama between the Dutch government, the European Commission, and Dutch agricultural workers

editor: Remix News
author: Thomas Brooke
FILE- Protesting farmers talk at a blockade outside a distribution center for supermarket chain Aldi in the town of Drachten, northern Netherlands, on July 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong, File)

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.

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.

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