France's farmer lobby turns up heat on government before talks

Representatives threaten to expand protests
calendar icon 22 January 2024
clock icon 2 minute read

French farmers' representatives threatened to expand protests on Monday before a meeting with government to address anger over price pressures, taxes and green regulation - grievances that are shared by farmers across Europe, reported Reuters.

"There is a general feeling of being fed up," Arnaud Gaillot, the head of the Young Farmers (Jeunes Agriculteurs) union told France 2 television, after farmers blocked roads in parts of France last week, in action similar to widespread protests by farmers in Germany.

"I think that at this moment, as long as I don't have the answers, I'd have a hard time explaining to them that they need to leave (the protests)," he said.

Farmers cite a government tax on tractor fuel, cheap imports, water storage issues, price pressures from retailers and red tape among their grievances.

France's largest farm union FNSEA has said it is considering nationwide protests in the coming weeks.

In a sign the movement is accelerating, Arnaud Rousseau, head of FNSEA, told France Inter radio on Monday: "Starting today, during the whole week and for as long as necessary, a certain number of actions will be organised."

Farming policy has always been a sensitive issue in France, the European Union's biggest agricultural producer, with thousands of independent producers of wine, meat and dairy. Farmers have a track record of disruptive protests.

President Emmanuel Macron is wary of farmers' growing support for the far-right ahead of the European Parliament elections in June.

Many farmers struggle financially and say their livelihoods are threatened as food retailers are stepping up pressure to bring down prices after a phase of high inflation.

Fearing a spillover from farmer protests in Germany, Poland and Romania, the government has withdrawn a draft farming law planned for debate this week and invited farming representatives for talks, starting on Monday afternoon.

Farmers' leaders Gaillot and Rousseau said they would seek assurances from Prime Minister Gabriel Attal and Farming Minister Marc Fesneau that a special law aimed at keeping farming revenues stable would be better enforced.

Gaillot also called for a regulatory pause, saying bureaucracy was eating up too much of farmers' time and that regulations aimed at cutting carbon emissions and protecting the environment were "too much".

"I think we could be on the eve of a big farmers' movement if there are no answers. Our European neighbours, with whom we are in touch, are calling us," he added.

Fesneau told newspaper Midi Libre on Monday the draft law was still planned to be tabled during the first half of this year, but said he first wanted to amend the draft to include measures to cut red tape.

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