Angry Dutch farmers descend on The Hague to demand respect

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Thousands of Dutch farmers headed to The Hague on Tuesday, many driving in slow-moving convoys of tractors that snarled traffic in the morning rush hour, for a national day of protest to demand more respect for their profession.

The Dutch motorists association, ANWB, reported that Tuesday was the busiest ever morning rush hour on the nation's roads, with more than 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) of traffic jams blamed on convoys of tractors, bad weather and accidents.

Organizers of the protest said on their website that they want to counter the "negative image" of farming in the Netherlands.

They say, "we are not animal abusers and environment polluters, we have a heart for our businesses."

Agriculture Minister Carola Schouten is scheduled to address the farmers in the early afternoon.

According to the Dutch farmers' organization, LTO, exports from nearly 54,000 farms and other agricultural businesses were worth 90.3 billion euros last year.

However, while farmers are a cornerstone of the Dutch economy, the sector also is blamed for pollution and emissions, and animal rights activists accuse farmers of keeping too many animals on their land.

Among the farmers' demands are that the government does not further reduce the number of animals they can keep and that an "independent party" measures farms' carbon and nitrogen emissions.

An advisory commission last week recommended that the government buy out old and inefficient farms as a way of reducing nitrogen emissions.

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