Farming Sector Up in Arms Europe-Wide
The farmer protest movement has expanded from Germany to France, the largest agricultural producer in the EU, and to Italy, the third largest. Demands in all three countries are similar: a reduction of taxes on farm fuel, fewer regulations and, in general, a reversal of the “Green Deal”. For over a week now, farmers in southwest France, near Toulouse, have been blocking highway traffic with their tractors. The second largest farm union, Coordination Rurale, has announced a day of action throughout the country for Jan. 25. And the largest union, the more mainstream FNSEA, plans to carry out actions of its own this week.
The protests are clearly directed against the European Union’s agricultural policy, which threatens the existence of independent and family farms. FNSEA President Arnaud Rousseau recently called that EU policy “incomprehensible,” and blasted the ostensibly environmentally friendly “Farm to Fork” strategy for preventing economic growth in the agricultural sector. Coordination Rurale, which represents mainly small family farmers, openly denounces a European Union, which is “ultra-liberal with its free trade agreements and ultra-ecologist.” It also attacks Brussels’ decision to allow agricultural products from Ukraine to flood the market.
French President Emmanuel Macron fears, with good reason, that the actions will spread to other sectors in view of the European Parliament elections in June, and will strengthen the right-wing National Rally, which now leads Macron’s party by 10% in the polls. Thus, he ordered the local département officials to reach out to the protesters in their respective regions. A decisive rendezvous will be the annual Agriculture Fair that opens Feb. 24 in Paris.
In Italy, thousands of tractors demonstrated in cities and agricultural centers on Jan. 22, a national day of protest organized by Comitati Riuniti Agricoli (CRA), a rank-and-file organization which is independent from the established farmers unions. In Bologna, the center of the agricultural Emilia-Romagna region, over 300 tractors paralyzed traffic and gathered in the inner city. In Lamezia Terme, a southern Italian town of 67,000, over 100 vehicles formed a tractoracade. Others took place in: Modena, Reggio Emilia, Turin, Civitanova Marche, Pescara, Frosinone, Valsamoggia, Latina, Crotone, Cosenza, Foggia, Altamura, Bari, Taranto, Noci di Puglia, Palermo-Sciacca, Agrigento.
The Sicily-based farm magazine Sicilia Agricoltura wrote that “Farmers, who dedicate their lives to feeding Europe, have united in a protest to make their voices heard and to obtain the recognition and support they need.”