Angry farmer protests are spreading across Europe, and they are getting results


A farmer hauls waste to block the RN 19 road near Vesoul, eastern France, on January 25, 2024.

Sebastian Bozon | AFP | Getty Images

The European Union is proud to be a champion of the environment.

But that reputation is now being severely tested, after it softened its climate policies in the wake of angry farmer protests that broke out across the continent.

The European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, intends to cancel a plan to reduce the use of pesticides by half. In addition, the Foundation also decided last week to remove the agricultural sector from a strict schedule to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 90% before 2040.

Speaking to CNBC on Thursday, EU Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski said he was “happy” about the U-turns because they were not “completely fair.”

“We need to reduce the use of pesticides, but not to force farmers [to do it]He added that the solution lies in providing more financial support to the sector to motivate it to follow greener practices.

The European Union wants to become carbon neutral by 2050. It also wants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels.

When asked whether these recent policy changes could harm these ambitious goals, Wojciechowski said: “This is the general goal of the entire economy, but in agriculture, we must take into account the specifics of agriculture.”

Europe’s reassessment of its climate policies comes as the bloc approaches EU parliamentary elections in June, which are expected to bring more far-right and fringe lawmakers to parliament.

“The farmers’ question is expected to dominate the electoral competition ahead of the 2024 European Parliament [elections]“By becoming one of the few European issues that will be contested by different parties,” Alberto Alemanno, a professor at HEC Paris Business School, told CNBC via email.

“The next EU political cycle (2024-2029) will undoubtedly be less green to the point of questioning the implementation of the Green New Deal.” [Europe’s flagship program towards carbon neutrality] Alemanno also said that the recent protests “are just a prelude to more clashes to come.”

A farmer hauls waste to block the RN 19 road near Vesoul, eastern France, on January 25, 2024.

Sebastian Bozon | AFP | Getty Images

There has been a peak in the factors that prompted farmers to protest in recent weeks, causing some damage in capitals such as Paris. These include higher costs, higher debt, competition from cheaper markets and lower selling prices.

For example, Average prices of agricultural products Farmers’ receipts decreased by 9% in the third quarter of 2023 compared to last year.

Luc Vernet, secretary-general of the Farm Europe think tank, told CNBC that farmers need more investment support.

“Farmers no longer have access to cheap money, and bankers are more reluctant to do so [lend] Funds for the agriculture sector. “So, we really need to think within the EU about how to implement the transition, because there is clearly a need to move forward.”

Farmers are at the heart of one of the EU’s most important landmark pieces of legislation: the Common Agricultural Policy, which provides €55 billion ($59.3 billion) each year in support for the sector.

The farmers’ protest even spread across the English Channel into the UK last weekend. British farmers, as the country leaves the European Union, have taken action Improvised tractor display In the coastal city of Dover on Friday as they protested against foreign imports of food.

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