Tensions in the Dutch ruling coalition this week have been simmering, escalating into a full-fledged rift after Christian Democrat (CDA) leader Wopke Hoekstra said the country's goals of reducing nitrogen emissions by 50% by 2030 are not "sacred".
"We have to restart the process," Hoekstra told morning newspaper AD. "Farmers have to become an ally again. One thing is not up for discussion: nature restoration is necessary.
"That requires a 50% reduction. The CDA does not want to pass the problems on to the next generations. But farmers also need to be able to earn a fair living,” Hoekstra said.
Arriving at his office on Friday, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said Hoekstra's quotes were a shock to everyone in the coalition. Earlier this month, he announced that he wanted to stick to the government's aims, despite ongoing protests from farmers.
“That is of course an interview that has raised [a few] eyebrows here and there,” Rutte told reporters.
For the Minister of Nature and Nitrogen Christianne van der Wal, Hoekstra's comments were not welcomed. Van der Wal reminded the press that Hoekstra signed the coalition agreement and should keep to his promise.
The nitrogen target has sparked heated debates and protests among farmers throughout the country.
This weekend, farmers parked along the course of the Spanish cycling race La Vuelta, which is being hosted for a touring stage in the Netherlands.
Protests have been non-stop all summer, with farmers feeling the objectives are unrealistic to match the Netherlands' production demands and, in turn, fair earnings for farmers.