He is reluctant to criticize extremist groups for supporting the farmers, but is clear there is a limit to the movement’s tolerance.
“The right-wing side, with the whole World Economic Forum discussion, a lot of farmers believe it. So, there’s a lot of crossover support. I’m not here to judge which is right or wrong, I’m happy there are people fighting with us.
“When it’s getting violent, we have to take care we’re not getting into a situation we don’t want to get into.”
The Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality told NBC News it had “no choice” but to continue with its plans.
“Nature is under pressure, and we need to act swiftly to restore it,” de Roos said, adding that there was a significant assistance package on the table to help farmers change their methods or leave their farms.
Some see the government’s farming plan as a direct challenge to a traditional industry, which inspires national pride of near-mythic proportions. And as with protests against pandemic lockdowns, curfews and Covid passports across Europe, extremists have used the widespread sympathy for the movement to boost their attention and support.
“It lends itself to the heroic, because the farmer is a mythical expression of local against a far-away elite somewhere in these glassy towers making policies that nobody understands,” Boin said.
There are broadly two far-right groups in the farmers movement, according to Cas Mudde, a Dutch expert on radical extremism at the University of Georgia. There’s the Farmers Defense Force, “who are at the heart of the most radical and violent actions.”
And there’s the “external” far-right actors, such as the Forum For Democracy (FvD) party, “which tried to use the farmers for their broader political struggle,” and whose leadership is largely upper middle-class and urban and has no ideological or personal ties to the farming community, he said.
“The far-right can profit from populist opposition to almost any such an issue, but its bread and butter is nativism, which is why they try to relate all issues to immigration,” Mudde said via email.
The Farmers Defense Force didn’t respond to a request for comment. However, Thierry Baudet, a lawmaker and leader of the FvD party, agreed to talk.
“This is about a globalist takeover,” he said by phone. “This was already manifested in the E.U. project, but also in the ongoing support for mass migration and the philosophy that is cherished by most people in the elite circles, that we are all travelers anyway, we’re all migrants anyway.”