Sunday, April 14, 2024

European farmers throw up their pitchforks

Just a few days before the Paris Agricultural Show (February 24 to March 3, 2024), French farmers are threatening further action. Their colleagues in several European countries are also at war with Brussels.

They’ve said it, they’ve said it again: they want concrete action, not blah, blah, blah. Angry farmers agreed to return to their farms in early February, after Prime Minister Gabriel Attal promised to “put agriculture above all else”! He immediately announced a catalog of measures designed to calm the anger of the farming community. Two weeks later, however, it’s clear that these announcements had no impact. “It was all talk,” says Johann, a farmer in Lorraine ready to take up the fight again.

Unsatisfied demands

What were our farmers demanding? Essentially, a real economic policy aimed at guaranteeing them a decent return on their production, but also measures to lighten European phytosanitary regulations and, finally, to fight effectively against unfair competition from third countries. But “nothing has changed on our farms,” continues Johann. We don’t see anything coming. We’re going up to Paris with our tractors and, this time, no one’s going to stop us.”

Message received 5/5

Arnaud Rousseau, President of the FNSEA (French Farmers’ Union), has the same message. The leader of the powerful farmers’ union fears being overtaken by his base. We want to see what changes on our farms,” he says, “and we’re ready to take action again.
Message received 5/5 by Matignon and the Élysée Palace. Gabriel Attal receives the FNSEA and Jeunes Agriculteurs this Tuesday. Tomorrow, Wednesday, Emmanuel Macron will receive the two minority but very turbulent unions, the Confédération paysanne (classified as left-wing) and the Coordination rurale (classified as right-wing).

European elections: Macronia fails

The French President and Prime Minister need to be convincing. Time is running out before the Salon de l’Agriculture opens its doors on February 24. Otherwise, the traditional inauguration of France’s largest farm could be a very lively affair. The French executive doesn’t need this new outburst of anger four months ahead of the European elections (Sunday June 9). According to an Ifop-Fiducial poll for LCI, Le Figaro and Sud-Radio, the Rassemblement National would come out well ahead in this election. Jordan Bardella received 28.5% of voting intentions, against 18-19% for the Macronie. An electoral thrashing that would be followed by others.

Brussels in the hot seat

Among the demands of European farmers is the fight against distortion of competition. We have learned, for example, that customs duties have been abolished for products from the Ukraine since the Russian invasion of February 2022. As a result, Ukrainian wheat, chicken and eggs, produced under suspect conditions, are flooding our markets. In response, on Tuesday morning February 13, Polish farmers blocked five checkpoints on the border with Ukraine. More than a thousand trucks are queuing up. Some have already been unloaded.

In Belgium, Walloon farmers are protesting as part of the Trop is te veel (Too much is too much) operation, led by the Walloon Federation of Agriculture (FWA), to denounce the “suffocating” situation in which they find themselves today. On Tuesday, almost 500 tractors blocked Europe’s second largest port in Antwerp.
In Spain, farmers and hauliers are blocking the roads. They have announced an indefinite strike. What are they demanding? Like farmers in France, Belgium, Germany, Poland and the Netherlands, they are calling for an end to unfair competition from low-cost products from other countries, thanks to free-trade agreements signed by the European Union. These trade agreements are putting certain farms in difficulty.
Brussels had better listen to the farmers’ anger if it does not want a revolt with serious political consequences.






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