Europe’s farmers have been protesting for months, blocking roads, highways and dumping manure and soil on the streets. They are angry about the rising costs of production, the low prices of their products, the competition from foreign imports, and the environmental regulations imposed by the European Union. What are the causes and consequences of this wave of discontent?
Europe’s farmers are fed up. They say they are working hard to feed the continent, but they are not getting a fair share of the profits. They say they are facing a crisis of survival, as they struggle to cope with the challenges of climate change, globalisation, and the COVID-19 pandemic.
They are also frustrated by the policies of the European Union, which they accuse of being too bureaucratic, too restrictive, and too out of touch with their realities. They claim that the EU is imposing unrealistic standards of sustainability, animal welfare, and food safety, without providing enough support or compensation.
They are especially unhappy about the EU’s Green Deal, a plan to make Europe carbon-neutral by 2050, which includes measures to reduce the use of pesticides, fertilisers, and antibiotics, and to increase the share of organic and plant-based farming. They fear that these measures will make them less competitive, less productive, and less profitable.
They are also worried about the impact of trade deals that the EU has signed or is negotiating with other countries, such as Canada, Ukraine, and the Mercosur bloc in South America. They argue that these deals expose them to unfair competition from cheaper and lower-quality imports, and that they undermine the EU’s own standards and values.
They are also concerned about the effects of the war in Ukraine, which has disrupted the supply of natural gas from Russia, and caused a surge in energy prices. They say that this has increased their costs of production, and reduced their margins.
They are also dissatisfied with their national governments, which they accuse of being indifferent, incompetent, or corrupt. They say that they are not getting enough subsidies, tax breaks, or social benefits, and that they are not being consulted or represented in the decision-making processes.
They are also resentful of the urban consumers, who they say are ignorant, ungrateful, or hypocritical. They say that they are not getting enough recognition, respect, or appreciation for their work, and that they are being blamed for the environmental and health problems caused by the industrial food system.
They are also nostalgic for the past, when they say they had more autonomy, more security, and more dignity. They say that they are proud of their traditions, their culture, and their identity, and that they want to preserve them.
These are some of the reasons why Europe’s farmers have taken their anger to the streets, in a series of protests that have shaken the continent since 2020. The protests have been organised by various farmers’ unions, associations, and movements, which have different agendas, demands, and strategies, but share a common sense of injustice, desperation, and defiance.
The protests have been diverse, creative, and disruptive, ranging from peaceful demonstrations, petitions, and strikes, to violent clashes, vandalism, and sabotage. They have targeted various institutions, authorities, and actors, such as the EU, the national governments, the supermarkets, the media, and the environmentalists.
The protests have also been supported, opposed, or exploited by various political parties, movements, and groups, from the left to the right, from the mainstream to the fringe, from the pro-EU to the anti-EU, from the nationalists to the globalists, from the populists to the elitists.
The protests have had various impacts, effects, and outcomes, depending on the context, the scale, and the response. They have raised awareness, sparked debate, and influenced public opinion. They have also caused inconvenience, disruption, and damage. They have also elicited sympathy, solidarity, and concessions. But they have also provoked hostility, criticism, and repression.
The protests have also revealed the complexity, diversity, and contradictions of Europe’s farming sector, which is composed of millions of farmers, with different sizes, types, and modes of production, and different interests, needs, and aspirations. They have also exposed the challenges, dilemmas, and trade-offs of Europe’s food system, which is shaped by multiple factors, such as the economy, the environment, the society, and the politics.
The protests have also raised questions, issues, and problems that require solutions, answers, and actions, from the local to the global, from the short-term to the long-term, from the individual to the collective. They have also opened opportunities, possibilities, and alternatives for change, innovation, and transformation, from the bottom-up to the top-down, from the inside-out to the outside-in, from the old to the new.
The protests have also shown the importance, relevance, and urgency of addressing the concerns, demands, and expectations of Europe’s farmers, who are not only essential for the food security, but also for the rural development, the cultural diversity, and the ecological balance of the continent.