For the past week, farmers in the south-west of France, near the city of Toulouse, have been blocking highway traffic with their tractors, to demand a reduction of taxes on farm fuel, more and better access to water, and less regulation. The second largest farm union, Coordination Rurale, has announced a day of action throughout the country for Jan. 25. And the largest union, the more mainstream FNSEA, plans to carry out protest actions of its own this week.
The protests are clearly directed against the European Union’s agricultural policy. FNSEA president Arnaud Rousseau recently called that policy “incomprehensible,” and blasted the supposedly environmental-friendly Farm to Fork strategy for preventing economic growth for farms. Coordination rurale, which represents mainly small family farmers and is accused of being right-wing, openly denounces a European Union, which is “ultra-liberal with its free trade agreements and ultra-ecologist.” Brussels’ decision to let agricultural products from Ukraine flood the market, is also attacked.
Recall that France is the biggest agricultural producer in the European Union, and if the protests continue, the Green Deal will have to go.
President Macron fears, with good reason, that the protests will spread to other sectors in the lead-up to the European elections in June, and will strengthen the far right National Rally, which is now ahead of Macron’s party by 10% in the polls. Thus, he ordered the Prefects to reach out to the protesters in their respective regions. A decisive rendez-vous is the yearly Agricultural Fair that opens Feb. 24 in Paris.