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Aggrieved Farmers in the E.U. Confront National Governments


Farmers in many E.U. nations are under extreme financial pressure as a result of proposed or enacted restrictive legislation relating to the environment, welfare, sustainability and international trade. 


During late January, organized protests and demonstrations took place near the European Parliament in Brussels in addition to major capitals in Europe.  Farmers’ protests have taken place in France, Portugal, Greece, Germany and the Netherlands.  A member of a national farmers’ association in Spain (ASAJA), stated, “We want to stop these crazy laws that come every single day from the European Commission.”


 Politicians are concerned over the protests that are fueling support for right-wing parties. The most immediate issue concerns importation of food products from nations with lower production costs and with fewer environmental and welfare regulations.  The issue of food security and ensuring support for farmers is evident and has emerged as a major political issue before upcoming elections to the European Parliament.


Having made their point, leaders of farmers’ unions in France have called on their membership to  return to their farms and to cease militancy including placing roadblocks on major highways for the past two weeks.


Having heard the message from the agricultural sector, the newly appointed Prime Minister of France, Gabriel Attal, noted that the Government will relax some regulations that are regarded as more constraining than those in place in the E.U.  Prime Minister Attal was joined by his counterpart, Leo Varadkar, of Ireland in opposing the E.U.-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement that would facilitate imports from Latin America.


In an address to the European Parliament, Emmanuel Macron, President of the French Republic stated that his nation is against the E.U.-Mercosur Free-Trade Agreement.  He called for harmonization in environmental and hygiene regulations imposed on farmers within the E.U.  Also addressing a domestic issue, President Macron called for “a joint mechanism to guarantee fair prices paid to producers by retailers and food giants”. 


Although there has been some easing in food prices in France and other E.U. nations, there is concern that consumer resistance is justifiable based on the need to spend more of their disposable income on food.