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Victory to the French farmers

Europeans are right to rise up against our eco-obsessed elites.

Fraser Myers

Fraser Myers
Deputy editor

Topics Politics World

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A ‘siege of Paris’ is underway. Since Monday, thousands of tractors, trailers and combine harvesters have encircled the French capital, blocking key motorways in and out of the city. Roads around Lyon, Limoges and Toulouse have also been brought to a standstill by furious farmers.

French farmers have joined the Europe-wide fightback against the green agenda. In the Netherlands, farmers have been revolting for several years against their governments’ stringent restrictions on nitrogen emissions. A policy which, according to the Dutch government’s own figures, could lead to the closure of around 3,000 farms. In Ireland, farmers have risen up over green proposals to cull over 200,000 cows. In Germany, thousands of tractors descended on Berlin earlier this month, protesting against cuts to farm subsidies, tax hikes on diesel fuel and a raft of green rules that have made farmers’ lives intolerable.

Certainly, farmers in each of these countries have their own specific grievances. Every European government has proposed its own intrusive regulations or onerous tax hikes. But these are overwhelmingly driven by a common goal: to turn agriculture into a ‘Net Zero’ industry. And for EU member states, this lofty green goal is not a choice – it is a requirement of the EU’s so-called Green Deal.

These protests have quickly forced governments to sit up and listen. After just one day of the siege of Paris, the French government offered an array of concessions to the farming sector. New prime minister Gabriel Attal has abandoned a planned hike in diesel-fuel taxes for agricultural vehicles and has pledged millions of euros in grants for organic farms. He has promised to cut some red tape. And he has threatened to fine supermarkets that fail to offer producers a fair price for their wares. But none of this has been enough. Because as every farmer now knows, no amount of subsidies or tax breaks can disguise the coming catastrophe of Net Zero. A demented goal that no government seems prepared to abandon.

The root of many of the most damaging climate measures is the EU’s Farm to Fork Strategy, which is itself a key plank of the EU Green Deal. It calls for 10 per cent of agricultural land to be set aside for non-farming use. It says that at least 25 per cent of EU farms should be organic. It demands a 20 per cent reduction in fertiliser use. And it insists that the use of pesticides must fall by 50 per cent. All by 2030.

The severity of these measures is hard to overstate. They will drastically cut the amount of food farmers can produce. They will render many farms unviable. But rather than challenge these impossibly stringent rules, most national governments have supplemented them with their own green regulations.

‘[The Green Deal] is a totally disconnected project’, Thierry Coué, deputy general secretary of the FNSEA farmers union and a pig breeder from Brittany, tells Le Figaro. It is an imposition from distant, out-of-touch Eurocrats, laying waste to a sector they do not understand. It seems that Europe’s elites – whether in Brussels, Paris or Berlin – are too wedded to green ideology to see the damage they are doing.

It’s not as if they haven’t been warned. Public anger with the climate agenda has been growing for years now. This was expressed most powerfully in France by the year-long revolt of the gilets jaunes. A proposed hike in fuel tax was the spark that lit the fuse. Working-class people, living in non-metropolitan areas, who need their cars for a living, were incensed and took to the streets wearing hi-vis jackets. The protests quickly broadened out to address other issues – from questions of economic inequality to political representation. But the fuel-tax proposal alone was enough to expose the fissure between an elite obsessed with eco-austerity and the ordinary people who have to put up with it.

The elites’ push for Net Zero has sparked a new populist backlash. Across Europe, plans to phase out petrol and diesel cars, mandate the installation of heat pumps in every home and replace reliable nuclear and fossil-fuel energy with unreliable renewables are causing immense pain to ordinary households. They aren’t going to put up with it anymore.

Perhaps no aspect of the green agenda is quite as irrational as the war on the farmers. Here we have a set of policies that would sabotage the food supply just to meet emissions targets. So it is fitting that the farmers’ protests have been the noisiest, most disruptive and most unsettling to the ruling class so far.

By pushing back against the green mania of our elites, these farmers are fighting for all of us.

Fraser Myers is deputy editor at spiked and host of the spiked podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @FraserMyers.

Picture by: Getty.

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Topics Politics World

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