“We have no intention of entering Paris,” said the Young Farmers Association (Jeunes Agriculteurs). Nor will riots be accepted. According to authorities, there were “almost 800 tractors” in the Paris basin on Monday afternoon, Le Monde reported. Farmers want to block eight important access roads “for an unlimited period of time”. According to media reports, up to 2,500 tractors from farmers' associations were expected in advance.
The president of the largest farmers' association, FNSEA, Arnaud Rousseau, announced shift times so that protesters could take turns during protests and rest. Individual farmer networks are prepared to remain mobilized for several days or even weeks, a Young Farmers representative told Le Figaro. “The announcements by (Prime Minister, note) Gabriel Attal will determine the end of the mobilization.”
Portal/Stephanie Lecocq Hundreds of tractors block eight important access roads to Paris
However, some protesters expressed a desire to speak directly to French President Emmanuel Macron instead of Attal. Until now, Macron had held back in public during the farmers' protests and left the stage to Attal.
15,000 security forces mobilized
A total of 30 departments and 16 highways were affected. Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin reinforced security measures in advance and 15,000 security forces were mobilized. At the same time, he called on the police and gendarmerie to exercise restraint: “Law enforcement officers must act with great restraint.” They should only intervene “as a last resort” if people could be injured or buildings could be seriously damaged. At the same time, he appealed to farmers to exercise “restraint”.
What are the challenges for agriculture?
“We stay at a certain distance, we don’t want violence,” said Rousseau, president of the FNSEA. “As long as our demands are not met, we will remain fully mobilized.” The farmers' association presented a list of 140 demands and sees only part of the government's concessions so far as being fulfilled.
After a first week of protests, Prime Minister Attal had already announced relief on Friday; the manuscript of his speech was in a bale of straw. He withdrew the planned abolition of the tax reduction for agricultural diesel and promised concrete measures to reduce bureaucracy, 100 million euros for farmers and the organic sector hit by the storms and an emergency fund for livestock farmers. “That’s Katzenlulu,” Le Figaro quoted the angry reaction of a cattle farmer in western France.
Portal/Nacho Doce Prime Minister Attal met some of the farmers' demands on Friday
Action against EU environmental regulations
On Monday, French Agriculture Minister Marc Fesneau continued in an interview with France 2 TV channel. The government will soon put proposals on the table to support farmers. This also involves changing EU environmental regulations for agricultural land, which must remain fallow under biodiversity rules approved by the EU Parliament last year as part of the Nature Restoration Act.
Many farmers complain that this affects their businesses. But there is no consensus among farmers either. Organic farmers, for example, demand more government support to defend themselves against cheap competition from abroad. The government is trying to contain the protests, fearing growing support for the far right among farmers in the EU elections in June. Marine Le Pen and her right-wing Rassemblement National party are already trying to create a climate for the EU elections. Le Pen even appeared on a moving tractor on Sunday, as a show of support for farmers.
Environmental organizations show solidarity with farmers
Numerous environmental organizations sided with the farmers. It is “very possible to work for the environment and sustainable agriculture at the same time”, states an appeal signed by Greenpeace and Extinction Rebellion, among others. In the newspaper Liberation, some organizations criticized the “prevailing discourse that seeks to make us enemies.”