SEVERAL thousand farmers took to the streets of Paris with their animals to highlight problems in the farming industry – with mounting debts and increasingly tough legislation putting their livelihoods in danger.
They said that rising production costs, new standards and pressure from big business and supermarkets were threatening to overwhelm them, and many young farmers were leaving the breeding side of the industry.
Taking over the esplanade in front of the Invalides, the farmers gathered their sheep and cattle as agriculture ministers meet in Luxembourg for make-or-break talks on reforms of the European Union's Common Agricultural Policy. The farmers gave away samples of their cheeses and other products for Parisians to taste and gave demonstrations on farming life.
They are angry at new European moves to add extra costs through "greening measures" that have been backed by MEPs in the European Parliament.
Farming lobby group Copa-Cogeca has warned that the move to link 30% of farm subsidies to “green” measures will heavily penalise the competitiveness and economic viability of EU farmers.
One farmer, Louis Sommain from Cambrésis in Nord, told Le Point: “This year, I have lost €60 for each 1,000 litres of milk produced.”
One litre of milk costs 42 centimes to produce but it is sold at 33 centimes and the farmers’ federation FNSEA said that paying an extra €30 for each 1,000 litres of milk would mean supermarket prices rising by just two centimes a litre or 1.3 centimes for a four-pack of yoghourt.
Other farmers said that while they had seen feed costs double they were getting just 12% extra on the prices offered for the meat.
The risk was that farmers would move out of traditional livestock farming and switch to intensive farming methods or move to vast monoculture arable fields which were easier to manage and more profitable.
Agriculture Minister Stéphane Le Foll agrees and has asked for CAP changes to have a better balance to help livestock farmers.