Late last week, French farmers took to the streets to protest the most recent string of regulations and price increases that harmed their livelihood. Now it is spreading even further across Europe to the Netherlands and Belgium as farmers have blocked the border, Greek farmers are blocking streets, and Polish unions have threatened to shut off border crossings with Ukraine.
The anger across Europe is all the same: increased red tape, cheap imports, rising costs, and no sign of help. The protest started to pop up as the EU made an ambitious drive to reduce carbon and nitrogen emissions by tackling industrial farms.
When the EU went to tackle climate change, they implemented a number of measures to decrease the amount of livestock farming across member states. On top of this, they agreed to buy produce from Ukrainian farms, which often outsize the average European farm. It carried heavy costs for European farmers, who were already struggling with the EU climate laws imposed on them.
Farmers unions in France have urged protestors to stand down as other countries struggle to control the outrage. In Brussels, farmers threw stones, eggs, fireworks, and other trash at the European Parliament. “We want to stop these crazy laws that come every single day from the European Commission,” said Jose Maria Castilla, a farmer who represents the Spanish farmers union. It seems that even the unions in each country are struggling to control the outrage.
There have been concessions made in France, but other farmers worry that it will not be enough to supplement the massive supply chain issues that could come from the reductions in farming across Europe. Farmers are warning that the future is in jeopardy if this is the path that the EU chooses. European Parliament President Robert Metsola said, “We see you and we hear you,” in response to the protests outside.
On top of allowing Ukrainian farmers to sell products in Europe, they have also given $54 billion in aid to the country while also reducing the subsidies farmers rely on to operate their equipment and maintain operations. The farmers feel as though they are being forced to shut down their livelihoods. The Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) has designated 300 billion euros to be distributed to farmers, but they feel like the policies within the CAP leave them behind.
There is no end in sight for the protests. Individual countries are working on securing deals with farmer unions and repealing some of the passed laws to help ease the tension, but the protests have continued. The price of foreign livestock and produce has dropped as many of the countries that signed deals with the EU are taking advantage of the situation.
The other countries that are having protests have dealt with the same road blockages, livestock waste, and tractors with signs condemning the new policies. However, farming makes up 11% of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions, and they are trying to balance sustaining the farms while reducing the emissions.
With elections coming up, many of Europe’s far-right parties are taking the opportunity to make agriculture a voting issue so that they can expand their base. There has been a lot of discussion about the future of Europe’s farms and their population if the food from other countries begins to run out.