It is amusing but inaccurate to suggest that the new Dutch government is taking a leaf out of Charlie McConalogue’s book by scrapping plans for a funded dairy cow cull.

In reality, this move by the incoming right-of-centre four-party coalition is part of a wider rejection of the EU’s environmental agenda.

In the way of things, it was only last month that the European Commission signed off on the proposals for almost €3bn of funds to go to cessation schemes, not just for dairy cows, but for pigs and poultry as well.

But the political wind has swung completely, and that money might never be spent. Instead, the Dutch government is likely to seek a renewal of the nitrates derogation, a complete reversal of the policy of the outgoing government.

The largest party in the coalition is Geert Wilders’ far-right PVV party.

Its election manifesto said: “We will stop the hysterical reduction of CO2, with which we, as a small country, mistakenly think we can save the climate.”

Oil and gas

It wants to stop building solar farms, and increase oil and gas exploration and extraction.

While the other coalition parties, which include the Farmer-Citizen party, are not quite as radical in their views, I don’t think Eamon Ryan would comfortably sit among them.

Irish farmers may think that this is good news. It has been seen as a negative that Ireland was to become the only country looking for a derogation. I’m not so sure that this is true.

Firstly, there’s little parallel. The Dutch do not practise anything like our outdoor grass-based system, albeit they do grow large amounts of forage - mostly grass and maize.

Most of the cows that do spend time outdoors are more akin to free-range hens than Irish dairy cows, wandering around a small grass platform around the shed, mostly depending on a shed-fed ration for the bulk of their diet.

The danger for Ireland is if the Dutch government pushes back hard against overall climate targets, which seems to be the intent, it’s hard to see the other 26 member state governments agreeing to a derogation. Rejection of a Dutch derogation application will probably make securing a new derogation for Ireland much more difficult.


Irish farming’s needs are best served by a workman-like, collegiate approach among the member states, where give and take occurs.

The other extreme, a free-for-all where consensus completely breaks down on environmental challenges, might look like freedom at first.

Perhaps we should look at how the UK has benefited from the freedoms it gained from Brexit before wishing for it for ourselves.

Those freedoms now look few and far between.