French farmers stepped up their protests on Wednesday across the country and in Brussels against low wages and what they consider to be crippling regulation, mounting costs and other problems threatening their livelihoods.
Echoing complaints from agriculture workers across Europe, many French farmers say their livelihoods are threatened as food retailers are increasing pressure to bring down prices after a period of high inflation.
Since late last year, they have been turning road signs upside down to protest what they argue are nonsensical agricultural policies.
On Wednesday, some took their protest to Brussels, home to EU headquarters, where French farmers’ union Rural Coordination called for a demonstration against the “ever-increasing constraints of European regulations and ever-lower incomes”.
Fearing a spillover from farmer unrest in Germany, Poland and Romania, President Emmanuel Macron‘s government has already withdrawn a contested draft farming law that would have helped more people become farmers.
Farming policy has long been a sensitive issue in France, the European Union’s biggest agricultural producer, with thousands of independent producers of wine, meat and dairy. Farmers have a track record of disruptive protests.
The protests are the first major challenge for newly appointed Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, who took office two weeks ago, and his government. Attal met with farmers’ unions representatives on Tuesday.
Following the meeting, Agriculture Minister Marc Fesneau promised to make new proposals to respond to the crisis by the end of the week, including regarding food prices and simplifying regulations.
Arnaud Rousseau, head of France’s major farmers union FNSEA, said his organisation would release a list of 40 necessary measures later on Wednesday. Speaking on France 2 television, he said the protest movement was aimed at “getting quick results”.
Farmer discontent over prices is particularly acute in the dairy sector, where producers say the government’s anti-inflation push has undermined legislation designed to safeguard farm gate prices.
On Tuesday, a car carrying three people rammed into a barricade of straw bales in the town of Pamiers, in the Ariège region of southwestern France. A 36-year-old female farmer was killed. Her 12-year-old daughter died later in hospital, the local prosecutor said in a statement.
(FRANCE 24 with AP, Reuters)
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