France’s farming unions have issued a threat to extend nationwide protests if their demands are not met, following a meeting with Prime Minister Gabriel Attal on Monday, January 22.

The unions, frustrated by repeated delays in farming reforms, seek government action to address their concerns. They have challenged authorities for action on excessive financial charges, environmental protection rules, tax increases on non-road-use diesel, and insufficient prices for their produce.

The mounting anger among farmers means some are resorting to direct action, posing a significant challenge to President Emmanuel Macron’s newly appointed government.

The Scottish Farmer: ProtestProtest (Image: Thisislocallondon archive)

READ MORE | Furious French farmers take to the streets of Toulouse

After the meeting with Gabriel Attal, the FNSEA (National Federation of Agricultural Holders Unions), leader Arnaud Rousseau stated: “There will be a certain number of protests all week, and for as long as necessary if concrete actions are not announced.”

The ongoing protests are affecting various parts of France and tension is increasing, emphasising the need for significant changes.

In a tragic turn, three individuals associated with the FNSEA union were involved in a road accident near a protest site, resulting in one fatality and two serious injuries.

The incident underscores the heightened emotions surrounding the protests.

Farmers are demanding an end to what they consider excessive grouping with European norms, as they wish for a full application of a 2021 law aimed at protecting farmers’ wages.

The protests in France reflect a broader European trend with farmers in Germany, Romania, the Netherlands, and Poland also taking action.

Common issues include inflation, partly driven by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and perceived unfair competition from Ukrainian agricultural imports.

Jenny Brunton who worked for the British Agricultural Bureau in Brussels, commented on the ongoing outcry: “The protests seen across Europe underscore a growing sense of frustration among farmers over lack of consultation on government policies, environmental regulations and pressures from external market forces.

“These protests look likely to gain momentum as farmers air their dissatisfaction, they are not only causing disruptions but may also force national governments and candidates in Europe’s June election to evaluate their approach to agricultural policy and rural areas.”

The Scottish Farmer: Lionel MonierLionel Monier

The Scottish Farmer spoke exclusively to French farmer Lionel Monier from the Auvergne region in central France.

The livestock farmer said they were facing ‘administrative overload’ with excessive paperwork for vet intervention, nutrient spreading, irrigation, and requests for draining authorisation. He also criticised the government for permitting cheaper meat from nations with ‘less or even no standards’ whilst French farmers faced escalating electric and diesel bills.

He said the public was ‘Agri-bashing’ when farmers were only aiming to feed the population.

He said: “I am not a fan of demonstrations that annoy the population, but unfortunately it is often the only way to be heard.

“We on our farm do not complain about the economy, as they say the grass is not greener elsewhere.”

He continues: “We also demonstrate in solidarity with friends who are often at the bottom of the hole, in debt and drowning under the burden.

“We are the first eco-friendly people; we have no lessons to receive from certain city dwellers or ‘ecological bohemians’ who are more polluting than us.”

Looking to the future:

“We would like to live from our products, not be stigmatised, have less administrative burden, or at least simplify them.

“I have faith in my job, we also experienced mad cow disease in France in 1996 and we recovered.

“However, with each crisis the world remains by the side of the road (bankruptcy, suicide, etc.) Our job

doesn’t count the hours, but we’re also free and it’s exciting.

“We would like more understanding from city dwellers,” summarised Lionel.