Tractors vs. Bureaucracy: Farmers Unite Against Unfair Food System

From Brussels to Brexit: Farmers Unite Against Unfair Food System

A Unifying Roar from the Fields – Farmers Demand Fair Shake in a Rigged System

Across Europe’s farmlands, a storm of discontent is brewing. From sun-drenched Spain to windswept Ireland, farmers are rising up, united against a system stacked against them. Their grievances are a tangled web: crushing debt, supermarket bullying, and a relentless tide of cheap imports.

Years of struggle have left them battered. Extreme weather events pummel their crops, while the burden of red tape grows ever heavier. Existing subsidies seem designed to benefit large agribusinesses, leaving many feeling increasingly marginalised.

This week, a new frontline emerged. French and Spanish farmers, the bedrock of rural Europe, blockaded the vital Biriatou border crossing. Their message was clear: end crippling fuel taxes. These are the very tools they need to put food on our tables! Yet, faceless bureaucrats in Brussels, seemingly more concerned with corporate profits, appear content to let these essential producers drown in a sea of regulations and costs.

Red Tape vs. Red Tractors: Farmers in Battle for Fair Food System

But Europe’s farmers aren’t alone. This isn’t an isolated incident. A wave of discontent is sweeping the continent, with solidarity brewing from Poland to Ireland. In the UK, post-Brexit trade deals and profiteering supermarket prices have fueled similar frustration. Farmers, inspired by their European counterparts, have vowed to continue to take action.

Farmers deserve a fair shake: a fair price for their produce, affordable fuel, and a government that prioritises their well-being over corporate greed.

Farmers feel betrayed by promises of a better future post-Brexit. Cheap imports and supermarket dominance leave them “getting clobbered from everywhere,” as one Kent farmer aptly puts it.

UK demonstrations modelled on those from across the Channel in recent months have sprung up, most notably in Wales and southern England. Andrew Gibson, a farmer in Kent who has been centrally involved in organising previous actions, said more were to come.

“We are definitely taking some action and we are calling on others to try to join us and to do their own thing as well. It needs to be a national effort because it’s not all about us; it’s about the industry as a whole,” said Gibson.

Last month, he and his brother organised farmers for a go-slow protest that caused traffic jams around the Port of Dover.

Activists in several parts of Wales have held a series of protests, including parking tractors outside the constituency office of the rural affairs minister, Lesley Griffiths, and blaring their horns, according to a Farmers Weekly report.

Gibson in an interview for the Guardian said the next protest in Kent would “hopefully be bigger numbers and it will be tractors, and we will be trying to get better messaging out about what we are trying to achieve”.

“The whole industry is on its knees, to be honest,” he said. “The dairy boys, the arable boys, the whole industry. We are just getting clobbered by the supermarkets, by the government, by post-Brexit trade deals, by imports of cheap rubbish. We are getting it from everywhere.”

Set to take effect in 2025, the new scheme will replace EU-era payments worth over £300m a year to Welsh farms. But it gives financial incentives for farmers to ensure 10 per cent of their land is planted with trees and a further 10 per cent managed as wildlife habitat.

But NFU Cymru has said the proposals were too complex and did not make business sense.“Welsh farmers have a lot to contend with at the moment; agricultural costs are a third higher than pre-covid times,” its president Aled Jones says, “water-quality regulations have added a huge cost burden on farming, bovine TB continues to cause heartache, and the government is not currently giving farmers the stability their businesses need.

Ukraine war causing rising overheads

EU food producers asked for measures to curb Ukraine imports
EU food producers asked for measures to curb Ukraine imports [SHUTTERSTOCK/Elena Larina]

The protesters – some of whom are galvanising support through TikTok videos – also say the Ukraine war has led to soaring costs of energy, fuel, fertilisers and animal feed that have crippled their businesses.

Five EU food producers organisations have urged the EU’s Agriculture Commissioner to adopt a cap mechanism for sensitive commodities for which the bloc liberalised import from Kyiv.

Measures are needed, the associations said, to shield EU farmers from market disruptions caused by trade benefits conceded to Ukraine.

In a meeting with Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski on Wednesday (10 January), representatives of farmers, the sugar and poultry industry and maize and eggs producers – the most affected by market disruptions – reiterated their support to Ukraine, but warned that the efforts to help Kyiv are “currently inequitably shared, with the agricultural sector bearing a disproportionate and unsustainable burden”, according to a joint statement.

The EU and its member states should stop importing duty-free yet low-quality agricultural products from Ukraine, farmers’ organisations from Czechia, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia have said in a recent appeal to their governments, calling for a joint approach and protection of farmers and producer interests.

The call on Visegrad governments follows a communiqué signed by representatives of the organisations who discussed the matter last Thursday and Friday.

“Due to the decline in livestock production since the 1990s by about a third, we are forced to export millions of tonnes of cereals to Western markets, which are now occupied by Ukrainian production.

This does not have to meet strict quality standards, just as Ukrainian farms do not have to comply with the regulations and regulations resulting from the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy,” said Jan Doležal, President of the Czech Chamber of Agriculture, during the meeting.

The joint comuniqué calls on Visegrad governments “to act in a coordinated way to defend their own interests farmers and food producers by extending the unilateral ban on imports of certain commodities into our territory, as well as to extend and unify the list of such commodities.”

However, despite such calls, the European Commission insists trade continues to flow well but admits there is “some risk” of imports driving down prices and threatening local production.

Kyiv claims its agricultural exports through Eastern Europe have not damaged EU markets.
Exasperated by the Polish protests, Ukrainian hauliers began their own round-the-clock counter-demonstration at three crossings. Their protest is planned to last till March 15.

Images circulated by media outlets showed Ukrainian trucks at the border bearing banners with slogans such as “Ukraine loses – Poland loses” and “The blockade of Ukraine is a betrayal of European values”.

Poland’s new pro-European government has supported the farmers’ demands, trying to balance this with its strongly pro-Ukrainian stance.

It’s time to dismantle the rigged system!

red tractor
Red Tape vs. Red Tractors: Farmers Challenge EU in Battle for Fair Food System

In England, calls for protests are also mounting. Adam Day, the managing director of the apolitical Farmer Network, a charity which supports farmers in Cumbria, Northumberland and the Yorkshire Dales, said he is seeing “growing competition for land use” and resentment has grown since Brexit.

“Farmers were promised they would be looked after, but we have seen them left to work at prices lower than the cost of production,” he said.

These brave protests are a stark reminder: the supposed benefits of globalization haven’t trickled down to the people who actually keep our societies functioning. It’s time to dismantle the rigged system.

While faceless corporations rake in obscene profits, the farmers who feed our nation are drowning in a sea of red tape and extortionate costs. The EU Commission throws them a life preserver made of empty promises, and the British government pretends not to see their struggle. This is a slap in the face to these hardworking families already squeezed by corporate agribusiness and cheap imports. They deserve better than a rigged system that rewards the wealthy and punishes those who put food on our tables.

This isn’t the first time the EU or British government has shown its contempt for ordinary working people. Remember the broken promises of free movement that flooded European markets with cheap labour, driving down wages for everyone? Or the disastrous trade deals that prioritise corporate profits over local food production and sustainable practices?

These farmers deserve better! They deserve a fair price for their produce, affordable fuel to run their machinery, and a government that prioritises their livelihoods over corporate greed.

This is a wake-up call for the entire working class of Europe! Stand with the farmers! They are fighting for all of us, for a Europe that puts people before profits!


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