Looking Back at Online Horse Breeding: Many Concerns About Nitrogen Schemes in the Equine Sector

The Department of Equine Breeding of the FNRS and LTO organized a webinar entitled “The Effects of Nitrogen Plans on Horse Breeding” on July 20. In this webinar, Haike Blaauw (FNRS Director), Marieke Toonders (LTO Head Breeding), Rud van Herk (Van Dun Advice) and Mark Heijmans (LTO Topic Coordinator Netherlands) discuss nitrogen schemes and the potential consequences of this . Horse breeding. The webinar participants indicated that they are very concerned about the nitrogen plans and the potential consequences for their own situation.

In an interactive webinar, the four dinner guests, led by Esther de Snoo, discussed what is currently going on in the Netherlands in the field of nitrogen. The announced ministerial plans also cause a lot of controversy in the equestrian sector. There is a lot of uncertainty and misunderstanding about the current situation and future possibilities of companies. The aim of the webinar was to inform as many horse owners as possible of the (potential) consequences of the announced plans.

Legal background
In addition to being head of the LTO’s Department of Equine Breeding, Marieke Toonders is also an attorney in administrative law in the agricultural field. In the webinar I explained the legal background that the Netherlands is obliged to take, among other things, in the field of nitrogen.

In a short time frame, it comes down to the fact that the nitrogen problem has been an issue with “acid rain” since the early 1980s. Agreements have been concluded in a European context to better protect nature. Birds and habitats directives have also been adopted. Each Member State has designated Natura 2000 Areas and has established with the European Commission the birds and habitats they will protect in these areas.

Nature conservation legislation in the Netherlands is set out in the Nature Protection Act. In addition, since July 1, 2021, the Netherlands has had a Nitrogen Reduction and Nature Improvement Act in which, among other things, nitrogen reduction targets have been set. By 2025, at least 40% of the nitrogen-sensitive nature area in the Natura 2000 Conservation Areas should have a healthy nitrogen level; In 2030 at least half and in 2035 at least 74%. The current government’s coalition agreement shows an acceleration in the goal. This states that 74% of the area should already be under KDW by 2030.

Rural area of ​​the National Program
Topic coordinator Mark Heigmans of LTO Nederland presented the nitrogen story in the broader context of the National Rural Areas Program (NPLG). Nitrogen is the first step, but the Cabinet will later make plans for the climate and water quality mission. The government has allocated 24.3 billion euros for this purpose.

In June 2022, the central government shared the initiation memorandum for the National Rural Areas Program, including directing nitrogen emission reduction targets for each area. A regional breakdown of water and climate targets will follow in October 2022. The draft of the National Rural Areas Program will be available in the spring of 2023. The goal is to complete the program by mid-2023.

With the first step regarding nitrogen reduction targets, the Cabinet wants to provide guidance to the provinces and stakeholders to act in the regions and find a solution to the nitrogen problem. When developing district programmes, districts have room to deviate as long as the objectives are achieved. The reduction target is per region and not per company. But in addition to this first step, there will be additional climate and water quality goals. Government also refers to “structural choices”: these are choices that the government has not yet made that have a significant spatial impact. Consider options, for example, river valleys, dry sandy soil or areas of peat meadows.

So many worries

As director of the FNRS, Haike Blaau can confirm that there are many concerns among horse farmers about what the nitrogen plans will mean for their companies. It also refers to practical cases where horse farms have to give way to nature’s plans. The image of many concerns is confirmed by the viewers’ reactions to the question of how worried they are about their own situation in relation to the nitrogen plans. In addition, 61% of viewers scored a score of 7 or higher on a scale of 1 to 10. 11% of viewers indicated that they are very concerned about their own situation.

The most important advice
Ruud van Herk joined from Van Don Advis. He spoke in more detail about what a horse owner can do at the moment and how the sector can prepare for it. Top tip: Check if the permits issued on the property are valid and whether a nature conservation permit has been issued. By asking viewers, it turns out that 25% do not know if the permits for their activities are valid. 24% do not have a permit and 18% believe they have one, but do not know exactly why.

In addition, the distance to the Natura 2000 area clearly plays an important role. If you are near an area, there is a greater chance that you will be called to reduce nitrogen than you are at a greater distance. AERIUS accounts can be used to test a company’s contribution to the Natura 2000 regions.

What do LTO and FNRS do?
FNRS and LTO understand that not everything can become clear with a single webinar. Much is not yet clear and the parties will continue to monitor developments and inform members of them. The webinar attempted to share information. The FNRS will work with its members in regional working groups. At LTO, there are hours for members where they can look more specifically at their own cases. A total of 492 symposium scenes were watched live. 68% of these viewers were viewers with a company that had horses. LTO and FNRS members will have the opportunity to watch the webinar again.

View frequently asked questions from the webinar on Nitrogen Horse Breeding here.

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