Tractors hit streets in Europe protests

By: Chris McCullough

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Farmers have locked down cities across Europe in recent weeks in protests against tougher regulations

Tractors hit streets in Europe protests
Farmers from all over Germany protest against the agricultural policy of the Federal Government. Juergen Nowak / Alamy Stock Photo

 

Thousands of tractors have been rolling along highways all across Europe recently but it’s neither the harvest nor a pleasure ride that the drivers are undertaking.

Major cities all over Europe have been locked down recently as thousands of farmers drove their tractors into the city centres to protest against bureaucratic regulations they say are keeping them from producing food for a growing population.

Convoys of the farm vehicles are being driven by farmers who feel they have no option but to take action to save their businesses.

It’s not only their livelihoods that are under pressure as rural areas and rural ways of life are being neglected by some governments. 

Although protesting against low market prices and general agri bashing seem to be the common issues throughout Europe some countries have their own particular reasons to block cities.

Netherlands

Major protests took place in a number of towns and cities in the Netherlands during October where farmers took action against what they say are unfair regulations forcing them to reduce nitrogen emissions.

Hundreds of tractors blocked over 200 miles (322km) of roads around Utrecht and The Hague as farmers scrambled to talk to officials at a meeting point but not many government reps turned up.

Livestock farmers in the Netherlands have just come through regulations to reduce phosphate levels as directed by the Dutch government and sanctioned by the European Commission.

To meet these regulative demands, between January 1 2017 and December 31, 2018, the country’s dairy herd fell by 190,000 head while the number of calves, weanlings and heifers fell by 300,000 during the same period.

Farmers say losing any more cattle due to the new phosphates regulations is simply unsustainable, hence the protests.

Some farmers that lost cattle have already been forced out of business as the money is not there to survive.

Germany

It’s not too often German farmers take such formal action but this time the stakes were high in November as tens of thousands of farmers and thousands of tractors took to the roads.

In Berlin alone around 8,600 tractors locked down the city centre in protest.

Their gripe is that farming is over-regulated particularly so with environmental controls that is going to put them out of business.

German farmers say the government wants a reduction in the use of fertilisers, pesticides and insecticides, particularly glyphosate, to comply with wider European regulations to save insects and reduce the nitrate content in the groundwater.

With farm incomes under intense pressure adding more regulations to an already overweight pile is not going down well in Germany where Chancellor Angela Merkel is just hanging on to political power.

France

The French are true professionals when it comes to protesting and the farmers there have also been on the move upset with a number of agricultural policies.

Every two days a farmer in France commits suicide for a variety of different reasons but among the most common ones is escalating farm debt.

This startling statistic has prompted the French Minister of Agriculture Didier Guillaume to set up a crisis unit to help farmers in times of despair.

With farm incomes squeezed tight and drought conditions hammering crop yields farmers, particularly those aged 45 to 54, are taking their own lives.

Upwards of 1,000 tractors blockaded the streets of Paris as farmers voiced discontent with falling farm incomes, phasing out of certain pesticides and what they claim is unfair competition in the marketplace.

Poorly thought out trade agreements particularly between Europe and South America will result in cheaper imports of farm produce putting them out of business, say the farmers who point the finger of blame at French President Macron.

Ireland

Tensions are also high in the Republic of Ireland where beef prices have fallen to unsustainable levels and farmers say rural Ireland will disappear unless immediate action is taken.

Around 100 tractors and many more farmers travelled to the centre of Dublin at the end of November to try and meet the Irish Minister of Agriculture to get some answers.

For two days the farmers staged their protest calling for an increase in beef prices and other commodities before calling off their action after the Minister did meet them briefly.

Representatives of the farmers handed the Minister a number of requests surrounding beef base price increases and further action to help rural Ireland breathe again.

However, should no action be taken by the government the farmers have vowed to return to Dublin city centre again on December 15 in larger numbers threatening to disrupt food and drink supplies destined for the Christmas festive period.

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