German Farmer Protests Must Lead to Reversal of EU Agricultural Policy
Over 5,000 tractors rolled into Berlin on Jan. 15, culminating an unprecedented “week of action” by German farmers (cf. SAS 2/24). The leadership of the National Farmers Association DBV seems to believe that a dialogue with the government will now replace the tractorcades and other forms of protest. Many of the farmers themselves do not agree, in particular those supporting the independent organization LSV (“Countryside Creates Connection”). They intend to keep up the pressure to make sure that the talks with the government do not end up in just a few minor concessions, rather than solving the basic problems in the agricultural sector.
The real problem, is the European Union’s agricultural policy, with its never-ending stream of decrees restricting efficient farming which have escalated in the past few years under the pretext of “climate protection”. Therefore, any meaningful round table between farmers and the government must deal with alternatives to the EU policy.
There is a fundamental issue involved here: food production has to be considered a public good, that provides good food at affordable costs for the population, and guarantee parity prices to the farmers who produce it, to ensure they have enough surplus income to invest in new machinery and improved methods. The free market, with its wild speculation and priority on profit maximization, the golden calf of EU bureaucrats, cannot be allowed to determine agricultural policy. Nor can geopolitics, such as the EU decree to let Ukrainian food exports flood Europe duty-free, at the expense of European farmers whose products are taxed. This topic should be on top of the agenda of the round tables in Berlin.
One major correction to be made, in addition to freeing farms from “climate protection” measures which will have no effect on the climate anyway, is to abolish the EU decision of 15 years ago allowing investors having nothing to do with farming, to buy up arable lands put up for sale by bankrupted farmers. This land-grabbing practice has contributed to the disappearance of traditional family farms in recent years. Prominent investors in land-grabbing in Germany are the Aldi Lukas Foundation, a senior shareholder in the Aldi supermarket chain, the Munich Reinsurance company, and the leading housing owner Deutsche Wohnen.
Another important correction would be to give farms access to low-interest long-term loans for investments in machinery, new farm buildings, etc., as well as in energy and transport infrastructure. Neither loans nor subsidies should be used to pressure farmers into giving up their activity and paying them for not producing food. This perverted system imposed by Brussels encourages imports from non-European regions of the world. Creating a parity price system for farmers in other parts of the world and providing loans for development of their own agriculture must be part of the same package.