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February 22, 2024

Farmers Descend on EU Summits as Anger Over Costs Boils Over

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Feb 6, 2024

Tractor Convoy Rolls Into Rome Demanding Relief

A miles-long convoy of angry Italian farmers driving tractors rolled into Rome this week to protest rising costs and what they see as indifference from the government. Blasting horns and snarling traffic, an estimated 3,000 farmers demanded relief from high fuel, energy and animal feed prices that are driving many out of business.

“Enough with expensive diesel and everyday more expensive electricity and gas bills,” read one protest sign affixed to a tractor. “Does the state want the death of farmers?” read another.

The tractor convoy was organized by Italy’s main farm lobby Coldiretti. Its leader Ettore Prandini decried the lack of help, saying farmers urgently need liquidity and market protections “to guarantee the survival of Made in Italy food production.”

The protest coincided with a key summit of EU leaders in Brussels to discuss aid for Ukraine and the bloc’s farming crisis. In nearby France, unions also suspended protests this week after some concessions from the Macron government on electricity discounts.

Farmers Swarm Brussels, Hurling Eggs at EU Leaders

As the protests roiled Rome this week, EU leaders arriving at summit headquarters in Brussels were met with an even more chaotic scene as hundreds of tractors surrounded the building while farmers attacked police barricades.

Waving signs like “No Farmers, No Food” and banners depicting bankrupt farms, protesters set hay bales on fire after futile attempts to smash through riot fences. Some pelted the convention center with eggs and pallets before mounted police pushed them back with tear gas.

The farmers came seeking urgent help from the EU to cope with soaring fertilizer and animal feed costs that have cut farm incomes by up to 40% for some. Dutch farmer Wytze Vellinga expressed the bitterness felt by many protesters: “The costs are through the roof and still they talk and talk but there are no decisions.”

Months of Anger Over Green Rules, Soaring Costs

The unprecedented pan-European protests sweeping from France to Poland reflect deep discontent in the countryside over new environmental regulations seen as unfriendly to farmers. Cost inflation linked to the Ukraine war has pushed many farms to the brink of bankruptcy, further fanning anger at Brussels bureaucracy.

New EU rules aimed at cutting pesticide use have limited key chemicals for many crops. And goals to expand organic production by 2030 could lower yields when farmers say they desperately need to produce more food not less.

“Farmers today find themselves in a real price-cost squeeze,” explained Torbjörn Tännsjö, economist at the Swedish Agricultural University. “Consumer food prices have gone up with inflation, raw material prices have increased substantially with the war, but the farmers’ own selling prices are going down.”

Blockades Snarl Borders as Anger Spreads

With frustrations nearing the boiling point this winter, French farmers began blockading highways and fuel depots with tractors and burning bales. Copycat protests soon erupted in Spain, Germany, Poland, Ireland and beyond.

Last week angry Belgian and Dutch farmers brought traffic to a halt on key highways connecting the countries. And days later hundreds of tractors streamed into Rome from across Italy.

“Farmers today often cannot cover their costs and the future looks dire for the next generation wanting to take over,” explained Liesbeth Hansen, who runs a dairy farm in Belgium.

No End in Sight as Anger Simmers

Despite concessions offered by national governments this week, the anger continues to simmer as many farmers feel promises do not match the scale of the crisis.

French farmers may stand down for now after small wins on discounted electricity rates. But elsewhere protests rage on – German farmers just blocked roads Wednesday in Bavaria and 500 tractors gathered anew in Brussels Thursday just outside EU headquarters.

With growing pressure on governments to contain food prices, some economists warn against fueling the protests too much. “There is no easy fix,” IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said this week. “Governments may come to regret expensive new subsidies or weakening environmental protections simply to placate angry farmers.”

|Recent Farmer Protests & Blockades Across Europe|
|———–|
|Italy |Tractors descend on Rome & Ministry of Agriculture surrounded |
|France|Highways barricades lifted but anger remains|
|Germany |Road blockades in Bavaria|
|Belgium |Border crossings with Netherlands blocked|
|Poland|Tractor protests in Warsaw|
|Spain|Supermarket supply chains disrupted|

Farming at Crossroads With More Turmoil Ahead

With Europe’s founding Common Agricultural Policy agreement up for review in 2027, farmers want a seat at the table to shape the future of EU farming policy. But officials may have limited power over global forces buffeting commodity markets.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has choked grain and fertilizer exports from the two breadbasket nations, spiking costs for key farm inputs like fuel, electricity and animal feed. New environmental rules also have farmers on edge amid already thin margins.

“The farming sector is at a crossroads,” explains European agriculture analyst Jean-Marc Bureau. “It faces squeeze from both climate policy pushing changes in practices just as expenses are skyrocketing. Without some relief valves, we risk mass abandonment of farms across entire regions.”

Unfortunately for Europe’s 7 million farmers, relief may prove elusive as governments balance spiking food costs against longer-term needs to cut pesticide contamination and meet carbon emissions goals.

With the future of Europe’s countryside in the balance, farmers are determined to keep pressure on leaders in Brussels and national capitals. Expect tractors and barricades to remain fixtures of the European landscape for the foreseeable future.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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