Furious with Berlin and Brussels, German Farmers Take to the Streets

Farmers throughout the European Union have been up in arms for the past couple of years against the European Union’s insane “Farm to Fork” policy, which provides for radical cuts (up to 50%) in the use of pesticides and fertilizers, as well as the reduction of farmland available. This has already had political consequences in the Netherlands, where farmers founded a new party, BBB, which was elected to the national parliament a few weeks ago after entering the Senate in March. In Poland as well, the farmers’ votes contributed to the victory of the opposition alliance in the Oct. 15 national election (cf. SAS 42/23).

The effects of the European Commission’s policy were also a factor in the break-up of CDU-Green coalition in the German state of Hesse, following the Oct. 8 state election, which was replaced by a CDU-SPD coalition that promised to defend farmers’ interests. In France as well, farmers organizations have been protesting against the rise in farm diesel prices, and the restrictions on nitrate use, and warn of actions to come in January. In addition to the agricultural policy imposed by Brussels, farmers in both Western and Eastern Europe now fear that the entry into the Union of Ukraine, a major agricultural producer, will be to their detriment.

German farmers had been relatively quiet in recent months, for various reasons. But that changed last week, after the Berlin government announced that state subsidies on the use of diesel fuel by farmers would be abolished, setting off a massive wave of protest on a local level.

The national German Farmers’ Association DBV organized in short order a demonstration in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin on Dec. 18, with the participation of thousands of farmers, many of them in their tractors. Under the slogan “Too much is too much! Now it’s over!”, they demanded that the government withdraw its plans. Otherwise, there will be “massive resistance” as of January, warned DBV president Joachim Rukwied.

The backlash has prompted Agriculture Minister Cem Ozdemir of the Greens to distance himself from the government, to which he belongs, and he accepted an invitation to speak at the Berlin rally. In the ARD national television morning show, the opportunistic Ozdemir explained that although he is not against cuts in principle, he understood the farmers’ concerns. The “pain threshold” had been “exceeded”, he recognized, especially as there is “no alternative” to farm diesel. Moreover, Finance Minister Christian Lindner said he would be willing to re-instate the subsidies and find other items to cut to make up for the gaping hole in the government budget.

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