Dutch farmers are protesting this week by blockading food warehouses and supermarkets in the Netherlands.

Dutch police fired shots on the protesters yesterday, saying the situation turned “threatening” when tractor-riding farmers, who were trying to push past a blockade to get onto a highway, started to drive their tractors into officers and their vehicles, Politico reported. No one was injured, according to Friesland police.

What exactly are these farmers protesting against?

Netherland lawmakers recently voted on proposals to slash emissions of damaging pollutants. The two most notable emission cuts being made by these decisions are nitrogen oxide and ammonia, which farming produces. For many years, ministers have been working to de-escalate this issue.

The country’s highest court forewarned the government to take measures from a ruling in a 2019 case. The new environmental rules say that farmers need to drastically reduce the amount of nitrogen oxide and ammonia emissions that their livestock produce. 

ABC News reported that these decisions were prompted when the government was not able to pass certain construction and infrastructure projects due to the breach it would have on environmental rules regarding emissions.

According to National Geographic, farming practices in the Netherlands are intensive because of their method of keeping large amounts of livestock on small areas of land. Nitrogen oxide is released into the air when fertilizer soaks into the soil or water and ammonia is produced through the urine and feces animals produce.

The government in previous years has tried other avenues such as urging farmers to give their livestock feed that contains less protein as a path to reducing these emissions but with the intensive farming practices continuing, new measures are now being taken. 

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The fear is that if farmers do not cut 50% of emissions by 2030, these emissions would harm endangered plants, protected habitats and wildlife across the European Union.

Lawmakers have warned farmers that they need to adapt to these changes or their businesses will be shut down, but protests have been continuous throughout the week.

“Blockades of distribution centers hurt the citizens of the Netherlands. Supermarkets do everything they can to keep the stores stocked, but if blockades continue, it could lead to people not being able to do their daily shopping,” the Central Bureau for Food Trade said in a statement.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that farmers have the right to protest but to do it in a civilized way, The Associated Press reported.

According to ABC News, farmers took to the roads and highways this week to either block roads or slow down traffic. Some protesters set fire to hay bales along the highways and some gathered together in cities throughout the country.

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Farmers also argue that they are being targeted while other industries like construction, transportation and aviation are also key players in the emissions issue, according to ABC News.

With agriculture being an important part of the Dutch economy, the decisions being made on this issue are significant. Dutch farmers also argue that the government has not thought through their futures once the proposed reforms are in action.

U.S. News reports that according to farming lobby group LTO Nederland, there are nearly 54,000 agricultural businesses in the Netherlands with exports totaling 94.5 billion euros in 2019.