Tuesday, 25 June 2024

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Why are farmers protesting in France, Poland, Spain, India?

Why are farmers protesting in France, Poland, Spain, India?

Eric Foucault is driving his hulking green tractor more slowly than he can walk. Shouting into his mobile phone above the cacophony of engines and horns, the farmer from south of Paris is one of 200 others clogging up the highway into the French capital.

Foucault and his fellow protesters are restless, their list of grievances long: soaring costs, increasing bureaucracy, new European Union regulations in its Green Deal and imports diluting their markets. “He who sows misery reaps anger,” says one of their placards.

Farmers have a long history of indignation, especially in France, and their latest moment is not confined to Europe. What’s different now is the breadth and potential impact in a year of heightened political risk because of elections in the EU, India, the US and dozens more places.

Across the world, agriculture is spreading as a key battleground. The people in power are trying to tame farmers while opponents from Donald Trump to far-right groups in Europe are trying to harness their anger. It’s become the latest skirmish in a wider culture war, much of it centered on the speed of the economic and social transition in response to climate change.

“Politicians only want to get elected, so they are latching onto the farmers movement,” said Foucault, 55, who farms wheat, barley, beets and rapeseed. “The right-wing parties, the environmentalists — everyone is piling in.”

The snake of agricultural vehicles converging on Paris on Jan. 26 was just one recent show of discontent. Dozens of tractors jammed streets in Brussels near EU institutions less than a week later as farmers aimed their resentment at the bloc’s leaders meeting nearby for a summit.

There have also been protests in Italy, Spain, Switzerland and Romania. Farmers in Poland have been at the forefront of opposition to grain arriving from neighboring Ukraine, forcing the government back to a negotiating table. In Germany, they blocked highways last month for a week to rail against cuts to subsidies for their diesel. Thousands gathered on the road leading up to the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.

In the US, farmers complain they are being priced out by big companies. In India, which relies on hundreds of millions of smallholder farmers to feed itself, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sought to mollify them with cash and subsidies, yet the capital locked down Tuesday due to grower demonstrations and the country faces a nationwide strike on…

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