Thousands of German farmers have taken to the streets to protest against the government’s plans to slash agricultural subsidies as part of the 2024 budget. The farmers, who say the cuts would threaten their livelihoods and the food security of the nation, have blocked roads, highways and city centres with tractors and trucks, causing massive traffic disruptions.
The protests, which began on Monday, are expected to last for a week and involve farmers from all 16 federal states. The farmers’ association, which organized the demonstrations, said it wanted to inform the public and the politicians about the importance of a competitive and sustainable agricultural sector.
The government, led by Chancellor Olaf Scholz of the Social Democrats, has proposed to reduce or withdraw tax breaks for the agriculture sector, such as subsidy cuts for fuel usage by farmers and tax breaks for farming vehicles. The government said the measures were necessary to balance the budget and meet the climate goals.
However, the farmers argue that the cuts are unfair and one-sided, as they do not take into account the high costs and standards of German farming. They also demand that any changes to the subsidies should be coordinated at the European level, to avoid putting German farmers at a disadvantage.
Some state premiers and opposition leaders have expressed their solidarity with the farmers and called on the government to reconsider its plans. However, the government has also warned that the protests could be exploited by rightwing extremists, who have tried to infiltrate the demonstrations and spread their propaganda.
The protests have drawn mixed reactions from the public, with some showing support and sympathy for the farmers, and others complaining about the inconvenience and chaos caused by the blockades. The farmers have said they are sorry for the trouble, but they have no other choice but to make their voices heard.