Direct intervention in the size of livestock herds is not considered a main option in European agricultural policies nor in policy option studies. Nevertheless, livestock buyout schemes have been announced by governments in recent years, most notably in the Netherlands and in Flanders (Belgium).
This article contributes to the scarce literature on this policy instrument by sketching the characteristics of different types of buyout schemes. We analyse how the issue is being framed on the political agenda in four EU Member States characterised by having high livestock density regions: The Netherlands, Belgium (Flanders), Denmark and Germany.
While in all countries we can observe a reproduction of a ‘technology versus volume’ discourse, the ‘nitrogen crises’ in the former two countries fuelled the reframing of concerns with livestock sizes in localised terms rather than as an issue of global climate change. When introducing new buyout schemes, the pre-existing institutional frameworks leave a clear mark on the policies adopted. In times of political crises existing policies to close farms were reinforced and the systems of nutrient rights offered the opportunity to take production out of the market. Notwithstanding the adopted policies and available budgets, the issue remains highly controversial in the implementation phase.