Farmers Protest Throughout France And Europe

This week, French farmers blocked major highways around Paris as part of ongoing protests against government regulations and costs. The farmers used tractors, trucks, and even piles of hay to shut down French highways and have camped on roads and highways for the last several days. The farmers have even spread dirt and manure in key parts of France in an effort to draw attention to their protests.

Although the farmers have various frustrations, their primary grievances are with government regulations, rising costs, and cheap competition. Farmers elsewhere in the EU are also protesting with similar grievances, although the French protests remain the largest and most disruptive. In part, this is likely because France is the largest agricultural producer in the EU, but they are also protesting specific French regulations and changes.

Rising costs are one key frustration for French farmers. Food inflation has been a key struggle worldwide, especially since the flaring up of the Russo-Ukrainian War. Ukraine produced large portions of the world’s crops, particularly grain, and the war’s disruption to their food production has been felt worldwide.

Because of this, France and the EU have been imposing regulations in an attempt to bring down inflation. However, the farmers say these measures have left them unable to cope with rising costs, including energy and transportation costs. A key grievance was a government plan to phase out a tax break on diesel fuel for farmers.

There is also anger that French farmers are hampered by environmental red tape, while cheap foreign imports are not subjected to the same regulations. Negotiations over a trade deal between the EU and Mercosur, a South American food trade bloc, have particularly inflamed frustrations.

The French government has announced plans to assuage some of these frustrations, including scrapping the diesel fuel tax hike and trying to cut some of the red tape. However, the farmers continue to protest in France and elsewhere, saying these changes are not enough.

These protests come at a critical time for France. Prime Minister Gabriel Attal was appointed in January 2024, and these protests mark a unique challenge for him in his first month in office. Additionally, Paris will host the 2024 Summer Olympics starting in July, leaving officials all the more anxious to find a resolution to this situation quickly.