European farm protests have continued, but not on the scale of the past month or so.

They have become more targeted. In Ireland, farmers used tractors to temporarily block Cork airport to highlight hypocrisy over the growth of air travel, while they faced production cuts on environmental grounds.

In France farmers made their presence felt at the giant SIAL agricultural show. A must attend for French politicians this year was no exception, but French president, Emmanuel Macron, was jeered at and booed for his inaction.

Then in Brussels, as EU farm ministers were meeting, a farm protest became heated, with attacks on riot police protecting the streets around the European Commission headquarters.

Their posters summed up the mood, demanding a ‘future in farming for their children’ and criticising EU policies on the environment and Ukraine’s tariff free access. In Ireland, the views of farmers across Europe were well summed up, with posters simply saying ‘enough is enough’.

All protests reflect the lyrics of The Gambler song, about knowing when to hold, fold, and walk away. The protests are moving views in the European Commission and in member states. This is a success, and the farming lobby is happy to have its issues on the mainstream agenda.

However there is a narrow bridge between that success and going further to alienate the public and politicians. In Europe, there is another twist in the run-up to the European parliament elections. Far right parties are seeking to latch on to farm protests. This is not to help farmers, but to further their own cause.

If this gets out of hand farmers risk seeing the gains they have made reversed.

At the very top of the Commission, farmer concerns are on the agenda.

They have won the support of the Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, who is hopeful of retaining that post in the new Commission. She has bought into the arguments from farmers and is driving policy changes and the need for a longer term realignment of the relationship between Brussels and rural communities.

The unanswered question is whether this will see a move away from green issues rather than food security and a commercially thriving countryside driving policy. The jury is out on that and for now, it still seems European farmers are getting crumbs rather than the full meal they want.

The trick now is to get more by keeping the pressure on, with protests used strategically rather than to vent well justified anger.

There have been suggestions that what is needed is the normal European Commission response of more money into the CAP. This is not the answer. Anything available would be tiny, given the demands on the overall budget, not least from Ukraine. This would be a gesture rather than a cure – a sticking plaster on a financial haemorrhage.

The buzzwords beginning to emerge include some welcome concepts. High on that list is simplification of regulations. There have been some moves in that direction, particularly around green policies, but these are baby steps when giant leaps are needed. A temporary reduction in arable set aside is not enough and nor are the other things that have been offered.

Brussels is still pressing ahead with its controversial Nature Restoration legislation, despite it only getting through the European parliament last year with a wafer thin majority. Dropping a flagship policy like this, before it is implemented to cause more pain for farmers, is the scale of gesture needed, but the politics for that to happen are not yet there.

Another word being used is conditionality. This is about food imports having to meet European standards, not just in terms of hygiene but in how they are produced. This would see overseas suppliers having to meet all EU regulations, including on animal welfare, the environment, and the social welfare conditions of people working on farms and in processing plants.

That is more possible than wholesale change of green regulations and it would placate farmers without alienating consumers. The issue being avoided is Ukraine and its access to the EU.

This is a core political policy, but one deeply unpopular with many farmers not only in the countries bordering Ukraine. For now, the response from Brussels has been to buy off concerns with extra cash, but as complaints spread to more member states that policy can only last while funding can be found.

So, it seems that for protesting farmers now is definitely neither the time to hold or to fold.