Farmers Defence Force


Farmers Defence Force (FDF) is a radical farming activist group in the Netherlands and Belgium, founded by Dutch pig and fruit farmer Mark van den Oever in May 2019. According to Van den Oever, he started the group in direct response to the occupation of pig breeding facilities in Boxtel, Netherlands by animal rights activists on May 13, 2024.1Sanne Schelfaut. “Dit is de radicale tak van het boerenprotest: ‘Ze moeten naar ons luisteren’,” AD, October 15, 2019. Archived September 20, 2020. Archive URL:

In 2019, FDF opposed the Dutch government’s plans to reduce high nitrogen levels in the Netherlands by reducing livestock numbers and buying out farms, with Van den Oever comparing Dutch farmers’ situation to the deportation of Jews during the Holocaust.2Mark van den Oever kondigt harde acties aan namens Farmers Defence Force,” YouTube video uploaded by user @omroepbrabant, December 13, 2019. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog. 

In June 2023, Farmers Defence Force Belgium was formed with an independent leadership team led by dairy farmer Bart Dickens, supported by the Netherlands branch.3THE FDF BELGIUM FOUNDATION IS A FACT!,” Farmers Defence Force, June 13, 2023. Archived September 25, 2023. Archive URL: In February 2024 the group claimed to have 4,500 members.4Farmers Defence Force reageert furieus na akkoord en plant “extremere acties”: “Landbouw wordt opgeofferd”,” HLN, February 16, 2024. Archived January 19, 2024. Archive URL: 

FDF offers memberships to its association for individual farmers and businesses, for the price of €15 and €150 per year respectively, which includes legal representation, actions and meetings.5Join,” Farmers Defence Force. Archived March 10, 2024. Archive URL: Part of the association’s proclaimed strategy is “bringing about a change in and rationalizing the thinking of all citizens in the Netherlands by telling a factual and honest story about agricultural, environmental and animal-related matters”.

The group has organised a number of large-scale farmers protests across the Netherlands since 2019.

In October 2019, FDF organised a farmers’ protest in the Hague involving 2,200 tractors.6Boerenprotest Den Haag voorbij, 2200 trekkers terug naar huis,” NOS Nieuws, October 1, 2019. Archived June 8, 2023. Archive URL: Two weeks later, FDF organised another protest in the Hague in which tractors drove over police barricades, with the Dutch military eventually using trucks to block demonstrators from the centre of the city.7Organisatie kijkt tevreden terug op boerenprotestdag: ‘grandioos verlopen’,” NOS Nieuws, October 16, 2019. Archived October 16, 2023. Archive URL: 

In 2020, FDF organised a protest of “several thousand” farmers at the building housing RIVM – the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, which is responsible for tackling nitrogen emissions – during which the military was called in to preventatively protect the building.8Enkele duizenden boeren bij protest tegen RIVM in De Bilt,” NOS Nieuws, July 22, 2020. Archived April 10, 2023. Archive URL:

In June 2022, a local FDF leader and a group of protesters went to the house of Christianne van der Wal, the minister responsible for implementing the government’s nitrogen policy plans, where they rammed police barricades, emptied a slurry tank near the minister’s house, and kicked in the window of a police car.9FDF-voorman krijgt werkstraf voor protest bij huis stikstofminister,” NOS Nieuws, November 11, 2022. Archived June 2, 2023. Archive URL:

FDF Belgium was also involved in farmers’ protests in January and February 2024, which blocked the port of Antwerp and main roads between Belgium and the Netherlands.10A67 nog dicht door boerenactie, Farmers Defence Force wil actiedag,” NOS Nieuws, February 2, 2024. Archived March 18, 2024. Archive URL: At one of the February 2024 protests, FDF reportedly compared the Belgian government to Nazis, and set a gallows alight that bore the names of three Flemish government parties.11Tobias Santens. “Hoe een denktank uit Hongarije het ongenoegen van Belgische boeren over de EU mee aanwakkert,” VRT Nieuws, February 1, 2024. Archived May 10, 2024. Archive URL: 

FDF organised additional farmers’ protests across the Netherlands in February 2024, during which rubble was piled across multiple roads.12Farmers dump rubbish on roads and set fires as protests continue,” DutchNews, February 6, 2024. Archived May 24, 2024. Archive URL: 

Stance on Climate Change

Farmers Defence Force has opposed measures taken by the Dutch government to combat climate change.

FDF has claimed that livestock farming can be part of the solution to climate change, writing in its 2021 annual review that “to continue feeding a growing world population and combat global warming, cows/cattle and farmers are invaluable: indispensable!”13FDF ANNUAL REVIEW 2021,” Farmers Defence Force, December 30, 2021. Archived December 5, 2023. Archive URL: 

When the Dutch ministry of Climate and Energy published a report on the Netherlands’ path to net zero greenhouse gas emissions in December 2024,14Keuzewijzer Klimaat en Energie,” Rijksoverheid, December 4, 2024. Archived May 3rd, 2024. Archive URL: FDF labelled the civil service “a dictatorship” in a press release.15CLIMATE AND ENERGY CHOICE GUIDE: DICTATORSHIP OF THE CIVIL SERVICE!,” Farmers Defence Force, January 17, 2024. Archived January 18, 2024. Archive URL: The group added that the previous Dutch election had shown that the public wanted new policies with “less limitations on freedom for civilians and entrepreneurs”. The same press release claimed that the policy recommendations to encourage more sustainable practices amounted to “the definition of communism”. 

In a tweet from February 2024, FDF spokesperson Sieta van Keimpema dismissed climate warnings as “hysterical disaster and fear-mongering”.16Sieta van Keimpema. ““Gelukkig hebben we de foto’s nog” – meer dan 55 jaar hysterische rampspoed en angst-zaaien door NGO’s en politiek op een rijtje!,” X post by user @SietavK, February 8, 2024. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog. 

A few months earlier, in November 2023, Van Keimpema attacked “unfounded media climate hysteria” as she shared a link to an article that claimed three-quarters of Dutch people are concerned about climate change.17Sieta van Keimpema. “Driekwart van de Nederlanders maakte zich in 2021 óók al zorgen om klimaatverandering. De zorg neemt dus niet toe, ondanks de ongefundeerde media-klimaat-hysterie die de afgelopen 2 jaar over ons is uitgestort!,” X post by user @SietavK, November 28, 2023. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

Animal feed company De Heus gave a “substantial” amount, “with at least five numbers”, to the farmers protests organised by FDF, according to a 2021 report from Follow the Money.18Dennis L’Ami. “De burger komt er bij de BoerBurgerBeweging bekaaid vanaf,” July 29, 2021. Archived January 18, 2024. Archive URL:

However, there is evidence of conflict between the FDF and other farming groups and producers in the agricultural sector. 

Animal feed producer ForFarmers publicly distanced itself from FDF over the group’s radical protest techniques.19René Bouwmeester. “Rechter: Van Keimpema (FDF) terecht uit FrieslandCampina gezet,” May 12, 2021. Archived December 6, 2023. Archive URL: FDF also criticised a plan for Dutch agriculture produced by ForFarmers in 2021, which included plans to reduce nitrogen emissions and yield more agricultural land for other uses, and said they were holding ForFarmers to an “ultimatum” to withdraw the plan.20Na het ultimatum,” Farmers Defence Force, October 18, 2021. Archived December 5, 2023. Archive URL: 

In 2023, the FDF threatened to pull many members of the Netherland’s largest farming labour union, the LTO, over the fact that the union had been moving towards an agreement on the nitrogen plan with the Dutch ministry for agriculture.21FDF: LTO ‘ontploft’ als het instemt met landbouwakkoord,” BNR, June 9, 2023. Archived January 16, 2024. Archive URL:

According to reporting from Dutch agricultural news outlet NieuweOogst, Dutch multinational dairy cooperative FrieslandCampina expelled Sieta van Keimpema’s dairy business as a member in 2019, claiming that the operation did not comply with their standards for cleanliness and calf mortality. Van Keimpema alleged that FrieslandCampina had terminated her business due to her role with the FDF, Dutch Dairy Board, and the European Milk Board. However, a judge ruled that FrieslandCampina “did not rush” to terminate van Keimpema’s membership, because it had warned and “suspended” the operation three times between June 2018 and February 2019 before terminating membership.22René Bouwmeester. “Rechter: Van Keimpema (FDF) terecht uit FrieslandCampina gezet,” NieweOogst, May 12, 2021. Archived December 6, 2023. Archive URL:

Opposition to Dutch government nitrogen policy

Opposition to the shelved nitrogen policies was one of the FDF’s founding principles.  

FDF has said that the Netherlands’ former nitrogen targets should be scrapped because they “would take away all life and all activities from the Netherlands”.23STIKSTOF. ONZE LAATSTE SLAG AAN RUTTE III: MAAK WET STIKSTOFREDUCTIE EN NATUURVERBETERING CONTROVERSIEEL!,” Farmers Defence Force, January 18, 2021. Archived December 5, 2023. Archive URL: According to researchers at Wageningen University, who wrote a report about the effects of the government’s nitrogen reduction policy, the targets were ambitious but achievable.24Monitoring En Evaluatie Van Het Programma Stikstofreductie En Natuurverbetering,” Planbureau voor de Leefomgeving, February 2024. Archived May 17, 2024. Archive URL:

In 2019, Sieta van Keimpema argued that the nitrogen policy amounted to “civil war” against Dutch farmers.25Protestaanvoerder: kabinet wil ‘burgeroorlog’,” Panorama, October 16, 2019. Archived May 26, 2024. Archive URL:

FDF has also criticised a model the Dutch government uses to calculate the country’s nitrogen emissions, saying that it is “deception”.26DEAD SPARROW! RUTTE 4 IS CHEATING THE FARMERS AGAIN! BUYOUT SCHEME MEANS PROFESSIONAL BAN IN THE EU: FOREVER!!!,” Farmers Defence Force, May 2, 2023. Archived December 5, 2023. Archive URL:

Following the Dutch government’s announcement that it would require certain dairy farms to sell their businesses at a guaranteed minimum price, FDF founder Mark van den Oever said: “We will not let this happen. Forced buy-out has to be dismissed.”27Farmers Defence Force wijst gedwongen uitkopen boeren af,” RTL Nieuws. Archived May 24, 2024. Archive URL: 

In 2023, when scientists from Wageningen University proposed even stricter nitrogen targets after concluding that Dutch nature reserves were suffering more from nitrogen pollution than previously thought,28Stikstofnormen worden strenger, natuur is er slechter aan toe dan gedacht,” NOS Nieuws, August 31, 2023. Archived January 19, 2024. Archive URL: the FDF criticised the research in part by referring to the book De Stikstoffuik, which casts doubt on the Dutch nitrogen policy.29NOS KIEST OPNIEUW VOOR EENZIJDIGE, VOORINGENOMEN VERSLAGGEVING OVER STIKSTOFNORMEN!,” Farmers Defence Force, August 31, 2023. Archived February 28, 2024. Archive URL: The book was later dismissed by top nitrogen scientists as putting forward false claims.30Het boek ‘De stikstoffuik’ valt in vruchtbare aarde. Wat vinden experts ervan?,” De Volkskrant, April 14, 2023. Archived April May 9, 2023. Archive URL:

During the 2023 Dutch general elections, the far-right party PVV became the largest party in the Dutch House of Representatives. PVV’s leader, Geert Wilders, said that environmental rules from Brussels would have to be put in “the shredder” because “our farmers and much more important”.31KAPPEN MET DIE STIKSTOF ONZIN,” PVV. Archived December 1, 2023. Archive URL: Following the PVV’s victory, the FDF posted on X saying “a new reality” had arrived in which “nitrogen can be directed to the dustbin” and “farmer[s] can farm again”.32Farmers Defence Force. “LTO= oude politiek. Er is een nieuwe werkelijkheid ontstaan na de verkiezingsoverwinning. #PVV Stikstof wordt naar de prullenbak verwezen. Transitie is over. Boeren gaan weer boeren. Subsidiekraan naar npo en lto en al deze organisaties gaan dicht. #All4One #Strijders,” X post by user @FDF_Nederland, November 24, 2023. Archived May 24, 2024. Archive URL: 

In Belgium, the group’s leader Bart Dickens spoke at an April 2024 event hosted by MCC Brussels, a think tank backed by Hungarian president Viktor Orban, titled “War on Farming”. Dickens told the audience that Belgian nitrogen policy meant “death” for Belgian farmers, that “all farmers must die” as a result, and that therefore farmers “are at war”.33Mathias Corvenius Collegium. “European Farming: Which way now?,” YouTube video uploaded by user @MCCBrussels, April 12, 2024. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog.

The FDF has associated itself with far-right groups in the Netherlands and across Europe.

DeSmog reported that FDF members spoke at an event titled “War on Farming” in April 2024 consisting of farmers groups and far-right politicians from across Europe, in which speakers referenced planned farmers’ protests ahead of the European election in June 2024.34Clare Carlile, Marta Kasztelan and Joey Grostern. “Orbán-backed Think Tank Courts Farmers Linked to Far Right Ahead of EU Poll,” DeSmog, May 2, 2024. Archived May 11, 2024. Archive URL: The meeting was organised by Mathias Corenius Collegium, a Hungarian think tank backed by far-right Prime Minister Viktor Orban and funded by shares from the national Hungarian fossil fuel company.

At the event, FDF spokesperson Sieta van Keimpema accused the EU Commission of “deliberately exterminating its own farmers and its own food production” and vowed that the FDF movement would “take a broom and sweep them away from their Brussels homes, sweep them away from the 6th to the 9th [of June]”.

FDF Keimpema joined the Dutch radical far-right party BVNL in August of 2023 ahead of the November parliamentary elections held that same year.35FDF-leider Sieta van Keimpema nummer 3 van BVNL voor de Tweede Kamerverkiezingen,” BVNL. Archived May 1, 2024. Archive URL: The party did not win any seats.36Wybren van Haga: dank aan iedereen voor uw steun aan en stem op BVNL,” BVNL. Archived February 27, 2024. Archive URL:


FDF does not publish organisation accounts or annual reports with details on its funding.

The organisation offers paid memberships and has engaged in crowdfunding campaigns.37Join,” Farmers Defence Force. Archived March 10, 2024. Archive URL:

In 2024, FDF Belgium was reported to have raised €1,785 of its intended €50,000, through 28 donations, to support farmers with legal aid.38Farmers Defence Force haalt met crowdfunding geld op voor juridische bijstand aan boeren,” Landbouwleven, April 28, 2024. Archived May 24, 2024. Archive URL:

In August 2023, the FDF shared that it had raised €11,467 during a fundraising campaign for fighting the group’s legal battles.39SUPPORT FDF: DONATE TO OUR LEGAL BATTLE,” Farmers Defence Force, August 30, 2023. Archived October 15, 2024. Archive URL: The same fundraiser was being used by the FDF to raise money for planned protests in Brussels on June 4, 2024 ahead of the EU Elections on June 6-9 2024.40DONATE FOR THE JUNE 4 ACTION IN BRUSSELS,” Farmers Defence Force, April 17, 2024. Archived April 25, 2024. Archive URL:

A 2022 investigation by Dutch news outlet BNR found that money raised from the sale of FDF merchandise was being transferred directly to foreman Mark van der Oever’s personal company, which he said was because the organisation has no one to do its bookkeeping.41Omzet van de Farmers Defence Force-webshop gaat rechtstreeks naar privérekening voorman Van den Oever,” BNNVARA, July 7, 2022. Archived October 5, 2022. Archive URL: A fraud expert interviewed in the investigation called the practice “a rather secretive set-up”. 

In 2020, Dutch news outlet Trouw reported that FDF Netherlands had plans for “major fundraising campaigns” to support farmers’ protests and to “recruit paying members”.42Robin Goudsmit and Frank Straver. “Hoe Farmers Defence Force zijn ‘strijders’ mobiliseert,” Trouw, February 19, 2020. Archived February 13, 2023. Archive URL: 


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