French prime minister tries to appease farmers before farm show

PM promises new law to safeguard farm income
calendar icon 22 February 2024
clock icon 3 minute read

French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal tried to ease tensions with farmers on Wednesday by outlining the implementation of measures announced this month and promising a new law to better safeguard their income, reported Reuters.

Attal made the announcement in a speech before the annual Salon de l'Agriculture farming trade fair, which President Emmanuel Macron is due to launch on Saturday.

While some local grievances vary, farmers' protests in France and other European countries have exposed tensions over the impact on farming of a European Union drive to fight climate change and the opening of the door to cheap Ukrainian imports to help Kyiv's war effort.

Convoys of tractors disrupted traffic around Madrid on Wednesday as farmers protested against what they see as excessive red tape and insufficient state aid. In Greece, thousands of farmers spent the night in front of parliament to protest against rising fuel and production costs.

In France, farmers largely suspended weeks of protests that included blocking highways after Attal on Feb. 1 promised new measures.

But the farmers say they are not being paid enough and are choked by taxes, green rules and face unfair competition from abroad, and have been pressing the government to show the first results of the emergency measures before the trade fair.

"We heard the farmers' call, we made commitments, we are keeping them," Attal told reporters.

Macron and his government are wary of farmers' growing support for the far right ahead of European Parliament elections in June.

New price law

The new Egalim law, designed to guarantee fair prices at the farm gate and strengthen the position of farmers in negotiations with retailers and consumer goods makers, will be ready by the summer, Attal said.

It will aim at ensuring the price-fixing system starts from farmers, improve production cost indicators and ensure European purchasing bodies comply, he said.

Controls on the application of the current Egalim law showed two European purchasing bodies had not complied and were facing sanctions of tens of millions of euros, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said.

Attal announced an exemption from this year of contributions for nearly all seasonal agricultural workers, mainly used in grape and fruit picking, and said it would be easier for them to get temporary visas.

A specific plan for livestock breeders, who are particularly suffering from a drop in income, will be presented at the farm show, he said.

A government source said the budget for the agriculture relief plan remained 400 million euros ($431.88 million), despite the new measures.

Farm unions welcomed the measures but said some requests remained unanswered.

"We would be dishonest not to recognise that things are trending in the right direction," young farmers union JA President Arnaud Gaillot told reporters.

Confederation Paysanne wrote on X: "Finally Gabriel Attal talks about income!"

Pro-environment groups said a change in the way pesticides would be measured would skew actual levels, and some protests are still planned before and during the farm show.

($1 = 0.9262 euros)

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