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Will farmer roadblocks return? French union angered by lack of action

The president of the union has said he has ‘not ruled out’ future blockades

A view of the A15 motorway near Paris blockaded by tractors, flanked by police

Farmers blockaded motorways and cities across the country last month, and have not ruled out further action Pic: Franck Legros / Shutterstock

A farmers’ union in France has warned that there may be future roadblocks - where farmers block the roads by driving a convoy of tractors slowly - to denounce what it sees as a lack of government action.

Arnaud Rousseau, the president of la Fédération nationale des syndicats d’exploitants agricoles (FNSEA) has demanded that Prime Minister Gabriel Attal respond to the farmers’ demands before February 24. 

This date is the start of the annual Salon de l’Agriculture in Paris, which will be held at the Porte de Versailles exhibition hall.

Mr Rousseau has stated that Mr Attal has made several promises to the sector, but that there has been no action to follow these up, even after farmers closed roads including 400 km of motorways between France and Spain in a blockade last month (January 2024).

“There hasn't been the slightest hint of a meeting. We want to see the concrete outline of the decisions that will change farmers' lives,” said Mr Rousseau to BFMTV on February 11. “I haven't seen the Minister of Agriculture or the Prime Minister for ten days.

“We want announcements to be made before the Salon de l'Agriculture, or at least, as it starts, because we are aware that there are a number of issues that will take time,” he said. “Time is not on our side. We need to speed up [when it comes to changes].”

He said that the union was looking for “concrete signs” that the promised measures will be implemented, and that many farmers are currently finding it “hard to believe” that they will happen.

Measures and meeting

Yet, Mr Rousseau did admit that he was scheduled to meet Mr Attal on Tuesday (February 13), to discuss the issues facing the industry and government commitments to help.

The meeting is scheduled to take place at 15:30, also with Agriculture Minister Marc Fesneau and his junior minister, Agnès Pannier-Runacher, the PM’s office confirmed on February 12.

Previous blockades have prompted the government to announce measures including:

  • Payment of European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) aid by March 15
  • Ring fencing of €150 million for livestock farmers “from this year onwards”
  • A “strengthening” of the EGalim pricing law to protect farmers' incomes
  • A pause in the Ecophyto plan to reduce the use of pesticides
  • The rejection of the trade agreement between the European Union and the MERCOSUR countries (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay)
  • Extra checks on the French origin of products

Mr Rousseau added that he has not ruled out the possibility of more protests. “If by the time of the show, we have had nothing, or results that do not live up to expectations…If there is no [agreement], we’ll be back,” he said.

Read more: What is France's EGalim law and why does it matter to farmers?

Motorway blockades

Late last month (January 2024), hundreds of farmers blockaded roads between France and Spain, and called for a “blockade of Paris” to call for more action. The A7 and A9 motorways were closed, and access to cities including Bordeaux, Montpellier, Lyon, and Paris was disrupted.

Farmers in tractors began to converge around Paris on January 26, with the intention of “blockading the capital”, but Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said that entry into the capital was “a red line”. He announced the deployment of 15,000 police and gendarmerie along with armoured vehicles and helicopters to prevent disruption.

The Interior Minister had previously declared that he “would like to support them politically” on January 28.

The blockades are not new: in 2017, hundreds of cattle farmers blockaded roads in Normandy to protest against falling prices and a lack of job security.

Previous articles

Where are French farmers' roadblocks now and what about the weekend?
Farmers block several French motorways as protests spread 
Travel disrupted around France as farmers blockade Paris and Lyon 

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