Over 2,000 tractors to disrupt traffic in 5 Flemish cities on Wednesday

Over 2,000 tractors to disrupt traffic in 5 Flemish cities on Wednesday
Photo from VILT

On Wednesday, unions are organising large protest actions with more than 2,000 tractors in five provinces due to disrupt traffic, according to the Flemish Infocentre for Agriculture and Horticulture (VILT).

At around 2:00 PM on Wednesday, the tractors will take to the ring roads around the cities of Roeselare, Ghent, Tienen, Geel and Hasselt.

“A tractor is about 10 metres long and more than 2,000 tractors have already registered by Tuesday: this will result in a column of more than 20 kilometres spread over the five ring roads,” said Vanessa Saenen, spokesperson for Boerenbond.

Boerenbond said that no streets will be blocked and that farmers will remain in the cabs of their tractors to minimise the risk of spreading Covid-19.

“This [protest] expresses great dissatisfaction and concern in the agricultural sector about the lack of a definitive nitrogen framework,” the unions say.

As Belgium and Europe as a whole race to meet goals related to mitigating the effects of climate change, the agriculture sector has found itself in the crosshairs of environmental policies aimed at curbing nitrogen emissions.

“There is a de facto moratorium on permits,” Boerenbond said. “This creates suffocating (legal) uncertainty that stifles entrepreneurship and dynamism on farms. This puts the future of thousands of families at risk.”

Translation: “Every farmer today, unfortunately, has different reasons for being on the street,” says young farmer Ward, “but everything can be summed up in that one burning question: give us business security.” #nitrogen

The Flemish Government promised to have a definitive nitrogen framework by the end of the year, but it’s now clear that this deadline will not be met.

“Business models and future plans were undermined overnight, business developments – in whatever form – are impossible and even a regulation for permits that expire in the short term was not possible,” reads a joint press release from Boerenbond, Groene Kring and Ferm.

Farming organisations recognise the complexity of the issue and that the agricultural sector will have to make a concerted effort to curb emissions, “but at the same time it must be clear that the agricultural sector alone will not be able to solve the problem. As in the past, we do want to continue working together to find solutions.”

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Farmers are facing uncertainty about the future of their businesses in light of the lack of a nitrogen framework, said deputy chairman of Boerenbond, Georges Van Keerberghen.

“Our members have been bubbling over for some time, but now they have had enough,” said Van Keerberghen.

“Our agricultural and horticultural businesses produce to the highest environmental and animal welfare standards in the world. If we let our local farmers down today, we will all be doomed soon.”

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