A DUTCH political party that is currently in a coalition government has called for livestock production to half to cut nitrogen emissions and create room for more housing.

MP Tjeerd de Groot has said farmers should be offered funding to either switch from intensive animal production to more extensive systems, or to exit farming all together.

Mr de Groot said: “70% of Dutch nitrogen emissions come from agriculture, a large part of which comes from intensive livestock farming.

“That is huge. At the same time, the contribution of intensive livestock farming to our own economy is less than 1%. The relationship is completely lost.”

He targeted pig and poultry farmers in particular, saying: “The Netherlands is a postage stamp where far too many chickens, pigs and goats are kept.”

The Dutch are struggling to meet nitrogen emission targets, with a recent reduction programme declared in breach of European rules.

The calls from Mr de Groot caused understandable consternation for the farm lobby, as well as with agricultural minister Carola Shouten, who’s Christian Union party has close links to the farming industry.

She said it would take work from all sectors to improve nitrogen emissions, and targeting farmers alone was unfair.

And a joint statement from Dutch poultry and pig organisations Nop, NVP and POV, rejected the 70% measure, saying that nitrogen should be measured in the environment, rather than just in the air.

Avined, the Dutch poultry union, launched a new initiative in early September aimed at making the sector more sustainable by 2025.

It said it had already banned beak treatment for layers, reduced antibiotic use by 70% and processes 90% of poultry manure.

But it would go further, developing more circular farming sectors, using feed made from raw materials that are sustainably sourced and unsuitable for human consumption.