THE HAGUE – A man was convicted Thursday of dumping straw on a Dutch road last month and sentenced to 80 hours of unpaid community service work, one of the first cases stemming from widespread protests by Dutch farmers against government plans to slash nitrogen emissions.
The 42-year-old man, whose identity wasn't released by the court in the eastern city of Arnhem, was also ordered to pay 3,600 euros (about $3,700) in damages to cover the costs of the cleanup operation.
The court ruled that he and about 30 other demonstrators partially blocked a highway on July 28 by dumping garbage, including manure, plastic straw and sawdust, on the road.
“By taking part in this action, the man caused a dangerous situation for road users,” the court said, adding that the defendant, who was arrested at the scene and spent four days in jail, said in court he regretted his actions.
“He had not carefully considered the consequences for others and indicated that he deserves punishment for this,” the court said.
Dutch farmers have launched a series of disruptive protests over the summer, including dumping trash on roads and blockading supermarket distribution centers, over the government's announcement this year that it wants to slash emissions of nitrogen, including ammonia produced by livestock, by 50% by 2030.
The leader of the Netherlands’ top agricultural lobby group said a first round of talks on Aug. 5 with a delegation led by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte about the emissions reduction goals delivered “too little” for thousands of farmers living in uncertainty.
Later Thursday, Mark van den Oever, the leader of one of the radical farmers’ groups, Farmers Defence Force, said in a YouTube post that the group was halting “hard” protests “until further notice” as a gesture of goodwill and called on Rutte to discuss with farmers more ways of cutting emissions.
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