Update: Dutch phosphate reduction plans

Published 20 February 17

The European Commission approved the Netherlands’ interim phosphate reduction plan on 3 February. If targets are achieved, it will allow the Dutch to retain its nitrates exemption for the coming year.

The plan covers five areas, details of which can be found below. These include the Dairy Sector Plan, the Farmers’ Stoppers Plan, the Feed Plan, the Intensive Livestock Plan and Termination of the Regulation Exemption Production Rights.

It is expected that these areas combined will reduce phosphates emissions by 10.8m kg, 4.2m kg more than the required amount. The Ministry of Economic Affairs will need to provide the European Commission updates every three months to ensure phosphates emissions are being kept down. Failure to meet targets may result in a retraction of the nitrate derogation, fines or further forced contraction of the herd.

The expected cull of dairy cows could see a 6.6% reduction of the herd, down to 2.27m, according to USDA estimates. Depending on how farmers decide to meet the targets, Dutch milk production could fall around 6-10%.

The Dairy Sector Plan – reduction of 4m kg

Dairy farmers will be required to cut back either on milk production or herd size to a 2015 reference period. All farms will pay a levy, with those not meeting requirements paying a higher levy. Any farms that reduce their herd level below the limit can receive a bonus from money generated by the levy. It is expected around 60k additional cows will be slaughtered than normal from this scheme, although some may be exported.

The Farmers’ Stoppers Plan – reduction of 2.5m kg

As of 20 February, farmers will be offered a premium to sell cows. Although not fully finalised, it is thought there will be three tender processes, with the premium being reduced each time to stimulate uptake. The first of these tenders will be open until 3 March and is initially targeted to farms that want to leave production in the first half of 2017. The premium will be €1,200/cow, plus an advanced payment for a phosphate right, which are due to be implemented from 1 January 2018. The plan will cost around €50m and is expected to see around 100k cows slaughtered.

The Feed Plan – reduction of 1.7m kg

The average phosphorous content must be reduced to 4.3 grams/kg and the phosphorous/protein ratio to 2.2%. If the sector does not comply by 15 May 2017, legislation will be brought in.

The Intensive Livestock Plan and the Termination of the Regulation Exemption Production Rights - combined reduction of 2.6m kg

These schemes are geared towards the pig and poultry sectors. However, it is expected these sectors will not be as affected as the Dutch dairy industry.