The Farmers’ Union urgently requests a decree extension for all agricultural companies whose permits will soon expire. From the end of November, 250 to 300 companies would be thrown into total uncertainty if their permit expires on January 1, 2024 or later.
“There is no framework (nitrogen, ed.) to test whether companies can obtain a new permit,” says Lode Ceyssens, chairman of the Boerenbond. “Should we then tell all those family businesses to stop? It is unbelievable that we have to sound the alarm here at the beginning of November. As long as there is no legally certain framework, the government must avoid companies having to stop their activities.”
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The farmers’ interest group makes its appeal in the Breykenshoeve in Mol. The dairy farm with 80 cows will no longer have a permit from March 17, 2024 and will not receive the green light for further expansion. “Our family hasn’t known where we stand for months,” says manager Riet Verschueren. Last summer, the Verschueren family was told by the government that the legal framework was lacking to approve their new permit application.
“We cannot rely on the decree’s option to request an extension,” Verschueren continues. “That is because the extensions are only valid until the end of December 2023.” The Boerenbond emphasizes that companies whose permits are expiring, or companies whose permits have already been temporarily extended until the end of this year, are facing very uncertain times.
According to chairman Lode Ceyssens, many SMEs and industrial companies are in the same situation as the Breykenshoeve. “They have no framework whatsoever to apply for a new permit,” says Ceyssens. “They must apply for renewal of their permit at least one month before it expires. But for permits that expire from January 1, no decree extension option is provided.”
Delaying longer is not an option, says the Boerenbond. “The Flemish parliament must come up with a decretal extension this month to provide a future until there is a nitrogen decree. The current situation shows poor governance, we are in danger of losing many jobs and added value.”
Flemish Minister of the Environment Zuhal Demir (N-VA) says he understands the demand for a decree extension of expiring permits, as well as the need for a nitrogen decree. “This both in agriculture and for other entrepreneurs,” says Demir. “The minds within the majority are in the same direction in that regard. We already showed willingness to do this last weekend. The legal basis for such an initiative is being examined within the current working group.”
Yet the Flemish government remains “majorly at fault,” concludes Chairman Ceyssens. “The longer this crisis lasts, the more entrepreneurship will be lost. And moreover, it does not bring us any closer to the nitrogen reduction targets.” The farmers’ union says it certainly wants to reduce emissions, but in a way that avoids a “socio-economic bloodbath in the Flemish agri-food chain.”
Also read: Flemish employers call for immediate political action in nitrogen dossier: “Otherwise Flanders will literally come to a standstill”
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