Representatives of the Dutch farmers who have been protesting against new environmental regulations have for the first time sat down for talks with Prime Minister Mark Rutte and other government officials.
The government needed to make concessions to farmers, and these would have to be “more than merely gestures”, Sjaak van der Tak, chairman of the LTO farmers’ organisation, told national public broadcaster NOS.
Eleven farmers’ organisations are joining the talks, which are being held at a secret location in the central city of Utrecht out of concern there may be violent protests.
The two most radical groups have rejected the invitation to attend.
The governing coalition has insisted its targets on cutting emissions of nitrogen compounds will be maintained.
The main sources include oxides of nitrogen emitted during combustion and ammonia emanating from livestock farming.
For several weeks, farmers have engaged in occasionally violent protests against government plans to cut livestock farming near nature conservation areas in response to a court ruling.
According to government calculations, this could spell the end of around 30 per cent of livestock holdings.
Farmers are demanding a clear outlook for their operations.
The larger farming groups had initially rejected talks with the government, before Rutte convinced the LTO, the largest, to enter discussions.
The protests have included blocking motorways, dumping waste, and setting fire to hay bales along roadsides.
Supporters of the protests have begun hanging out Dutch flags upside down, accompanied by a traditional red farmer’s handkerchief.