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Farmers protest in Brussels over EU agricultural policy

Farmers have been protesting on the streets of Brussels over the EU’s policies with growing concern over a number of plans for agriculture which they believe could hit the sector hard.

The protests, which has included grape growers and agricultural industries involved in wine production, comes after weeks of protests around Europe over a raft of policies related to its Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

Earlier this month, winegrowers from Bordeaux joined the widespread demonstrations by farmers across France, blocking roads and disrupting traffic on the city’s busy motorway, to protest at rising costs and demanding paperwork.

The demos, which include dumping manure and lighting a bonfire in front of the headquarters for the regional government, the préfecture de la Gironde, were sparked by the French government’s plans to get rid of a tax break on agricultural diesel fuel, with farmers saying that they cannot afford to pay taxes on tractor fuel.

The news also comes only days after French farmers took to the streets of Paris again ahead of the International Agricultural Fair at the Paris Expo Porte de Versailles conference centre.

National ministers have urged the EU to increase funding for the annual €60bn CAP subsidy scheme, which is around a third of the bloc’s entire budget. There is also concern amongst farmers about new environmental legislation and rules of pesticides, which could cut into their bottom lines, and cheap food imports impacting European farmers.


Ireland’s agriculture minister Charlie McConalogue said the CAP budget must be increased and also “strengthened” and Belgium’s minister David Clarinval said farmers “need to be paid for what they do” and “that is the core of the problem”.

In all, the CAP is almost €4oom of the EU’s six year budget running from 2021 to 2027 with 80% of cash going to around 20% of farmers.

Yesterday, protesters set fire to tyres in the European district of Brussels following country-specific protests in a number of locations, including France, Italy and Poland.

Rule changes

As a result of the demonstrations, the European Commission has now proposed a number of measures to ease the administrative burden for accessing the CAP, and also allowing farmers to use set-aside for arable crops rather than as grassland, and even exempting smaller farmers from the fresh environmental rules altogether.

Plans for cutting of pesticide use and emissions reduction goals have also be removed from the outline EU climate plans related to agriculture.

Copa Cogeca, a large farming lobby group, had previously described to the Commission in a letter the environmental rules as a “regulatory tsunami” with “too many rushed consultations” and “top-down targets lacking assessment”.

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