If there is a lesson to be drawn from the farmers’ protests in the Netherlands, it’s that a small segment of a population, if desperate and angry enough at the unjust and intentional destruction of their livelihood, can win public sympathy and shake an overreaching government to its core.
By no means is last month’s resignation of Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte the final chapter in the government-imposed travails of farmers in the Netherlands. Among the most productive agricultural producers in the world, they continue to face the threat of forced farm buyouts as Dutch and EU policymakers remain obsessed with cutting the tiny country’s fertilizer emissions on faith it will lower global temperatures (even though no research anywhere can show that this policy will work, while at the same time nothing is being done in China).
But make no mistake, Rutte’s decision to bow out wouldn’t have come without months of peaceful farmer protests in the streets of Holland, which, most importantly, led sympathetic Dutch voters to hand the Farmers Citizen Movement a landslide in Senate elections this past March. According to media reports, the farmer-friendly party — which vehemently opposes compulsory farm buyouts — is now leading Rutte’s own mainstream party in advance of this fall’s parliamentary elections as well. Rutte has been rendered the leader of a caretaker government, which can’t make any major changes while awaiting the outcome of the pending elections.
The outgoing Dutch PM, a World Economic Forum colleague of Justin Trudeau, isn’t seeking re-election after 13 years of office.
There’s a clear lesson here for the Canadian prime minister who didn’t join his fellow WEF alum in resigning last month. Instead, Trudeau rearranged the deck chairs on the Titanic of the federal cabinet, and pundits see it as preparations for an election by a government that’s trailing in the polls. There’s equally a lesson for Canadian farmers that face their own existential threats from a government that insults their intelligence by trying to sell them on fertilizer emissions reductions as something that can be achieved without imposed fertilizer cuts on agriculture. Recent research from Alberta suggests that one isn’t possible without the other.
Looking at the example of their Dutch brethren, Canadian farmers can take heart that refusing to appease the policymakers can be a winning strategy. Sometimes, there’s just no option but to stand up and say ‘no.’
Nelson Zandbergen can be reached at Nelson@farmersforum.com.