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French farmers block major roadways over gov’t climate change policies

Jan 30

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Protests outside Paris continued on Monday, Jan. 29, as farmers demanding lower fuel prices, higher wages, and fewer regulations brought in heavy farm equipment to block major roadways. Combines, tractors, and other large vehicles could be seen rolling into position in protest of government policies farmers say threaten their livelihoods.

European leaders contend that the policies put in place are needed to combat climate change.

According to Radio France Internationale, a French news outlet, one of the main points of contention for farmers is a requirement under the European Union’s Nature Restoration Law for 4% of farmland to remain unused, which farmers said cuts into their production capacity and hurts their income.

The EU law went into effect in 2023. The goal of the law is to preserve and restore habitats harmed by agriculture.

European leaders claim the law is necessary to limit the harm done by pesticides and fertilizer, and cite a significant drop in insect and bird populations in the European countryside tied to current farming practices, according to the Washington Post.

However, demonstrators claim the regulations are too costly as farmers are pushed into bankruptcy. Protesters are demanding the government address soaring prices for fuel, fertilizer, crops and feed for livestock — all things farmers say are necessary to keep the agricultural industry afloat.

One protester said the massive convoy that disrupted traffic around Paris and other areas was not designed to “ruin French people’s lives.” Farmers maintain they simply want lawmakers to find solutions to the crisis which has been worsened by the Russia-Ukraine war.

Demonstrators pointed out that France imports food from countries with fewer regulations and lower costs, which local farmers cannot compete with.

Arnoud Rousseau, the president of the FNSEA agricultural union, claimed Ukrainian sugar producers saw soaring exports to Europe after Russia invaded Ukraine. He said it has created an “untenable” situation for European counterparts.

During a press conference on Tuesday, Jan. 30, French President Emmanuel Macron said the European Union needs to act to protect farmers against cheap agricultural imports and distribution platforms.

“This is why I will see the EU Commission president on Thursday because we’ve asked for very concrete measures for our farmers,” Macron said. “First, to have clear rules set up around imports from Ukraine because we have today, in terms of volume and quality, something that’s destabilizing the European market, be it poultry or cereals.”

So far, there are no reports of violence other than demonstrators burning some hay bales and tires. Some farmers reportedly played cards as they continued to wait for concessions from the French government.

The farmers’ protests are not just limited to France. In recent weeks, similar protests have been playing out in Germany and across Europe.

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[KARAH RUCKER]

FRENCH FARMERS BLOCKED MAJOR ROADWAYS OUTSIDE PARIS THIS WEEK WITH HEAVY EQUIPMENT.

COMBINES AND TRACTORS COULD BE SEEN ROLLING INTO POSITION AS PART OF A PROTEST OF GOVERNMENT POLICIES FARMERS SAY THREATEN THEIR LIVELIHOODS.

THE GOVERNMENT RESPONDING SAYING THE NEW POLICIES ARE NEEDED TO COMBAT CLIMATE CHANGE.

BUT FARMERS ARGUE THE REGULATIONS ARE “SUFFOCATING.”

ACCORDING TO FRANCE MEDIA OUTLETS, ONE OF THE MAIN POINTS OF CONTENTION FOR FARMERS IS A REQUIREMENT UNDER THE EU’S NATURE RESTORATION LAW FOR FOUR PERCENT OF FARMLAND TO REMAIN UNUSED, SOMETHING FARMERS SAY CUTS INTO THEIR PRODUCTION CAPACITY.

THE LAW WENT INTO EFFECT IN 2023.

EUROPEAN LEADERS CONTEND THE POLICIES ARE NECESSARY TO LIMIT THE HARM DONE BY PESTICIDES AND FERTILIZER.

LEADERS CITE A SIGNIFICANT DROP IN INSECT AND BIRD POPULATIONS IN THE EUROPEAN COUNTRYSIDE TIED TO CURRENT FARMING PRACTICES, ACCORDING TO THE WASHINGTON POST.

HOWEVER, DEMONSTRATORS CLAIM THE REGULATIONS ARE TOO COSTLY–

WITH MANY FARMERS BEING PUSHED INTO BANKRUPTCY.

PROTESTERS WANT THE GOVERNMENT TO ADDRESS SOARING PRICES FOR FUEL, FERTILIZER, CROPS AND FEED FOR LIVESTOCK.

FARMERS SAY THEIR MASSIVE CONVOY THAT DISRUPTED TRAFFIC AROUND PARIS AND OTHER AREAS OF FRANCE WAS NOT DESIGNED TO “RUIN FRENCH PEOPLE’S LIVES,” TELLING REPORTERS THEY SIMPLY WANT LAWMAKERS TO FIND SOLUTIONS TO THE UNFOLDING CRISIS. A CRISIS MADE WORSE BY THE WAR IN UKRAINE– CREATING A GLOBAL FOOD SUPPLY DISRUPTION.

DEMONSTRATORS ALSO POINTED OUT FRANCE IMPORTS FOOD FROM COUNTRIES WITH FEWER REGULATIONS AND LOWER COSTS–

SOMETHING LOCAL FARMERS CAN NOT COMPETE WITH.

DURING A PRESS CONFERENCE TUESDAY FRENCH PRESIDENT EMMANUEL MACRON SAID THE EUROPEAN UNION NEEDS TO ACT.

HE WILL MEET WITH THE EU COMMISSION PRESIDENT ON THURSDAY.

THE GOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO THE PARADE OF FARM EQUIPMENT IN THE STREETS INCLUDED  15,000 POLICE OFFICERS AS WELL AS ARMORED VEHICLES TO BREAK UP TRAFFIC.

SO FAR, THERE ARE NO REPORTS OF VIOLENCE, OTHER THAN DEMONSTRATORS BURNING SOME HAY BALES AND TIRES.

SOME FARMERS REPORTEDLY PLAYED CARDS– AS THEY CONTINUED TO WAIT ON CONCESSIONS FROM THE GOVERNMENT.

THE DEMONSTRATIONS ARE NOT JUST LIMITED TO FRANCE–

IN RECENT WEEKS SIMILAR PROTESTS HAVE BEEN PLAYING OUT IN GERMANY AND ACROSS EUROPE.

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