Tractor protests return in north of France amid farmer warnings

‘We want to show the next government that we are still there and they need to watch out’ says farming union

French farmers block the A62 Langon toll near Bordeaux in France
A reprise of the month-long national farmers protest could be hard for Gabriel Attal’s government or for the next one after the election

Two farmers unions are set to stage protest action in the north of France on Wednesday (June 19) due to delays in the payment of their subsidies.

The unions, which caused wide scale disruption earlier in 2024, say the next government “needs to watch out”.

The FDSEA and Jeunes Agriculteurs unions have announced a protest in Rennes, Ille-et-Vilaine, in front of the offices of the Direction Départementale des Territoires et de la Mer, which overseas issues of land management, on June 19 at 14:00.

Around 50 farmers and several tractors are expected to attend.

Organiser Cyrille Herbert of the Jeunes Agriculteurs 35 union called the protest “just the start”.

“We want explanations,” he told local news outlet Le Télégramme. “There are lots of farmers who are still waiting for their MAEC payment and other organic subsidies. Promises have not been kept.”

MAEC, or the Mesures agroenvironnementales et Climatiques are a series of financial incentives to encourage farmers to use less water and improve the energy efficiency of their farm.

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

A reprise of the February and March farmers’ protests?

The FDSEA and Jeunes Agriculteurs unions became household names in February and March 2024 when they staged a month-long national protest, blocking many roads including vital motorway access to the capital.

They were protesting due to what they perceived as a stifling build-up of red-tape, unfair competition from cheap foreign produce and the reintroduction of a tax on agricultural diesel.

Ultimately, the government agreed to rescind the diesel tax and introduced a number of other concessions for farmers including:

  • 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 in supermarkets on the French origin of products

The crisis, which lasted from January 20 to March 3, represented a baptism of fire for the then newly-appointed Prime Minister Gabriel Attal who will not welcome the prospect of their return in the run up to both the parliamentary elections and Olympic Games.

Read more: ‘Farmer crisis is a pig for new French PM and a godsend for Le Pen’ 

However, for the organiser of the Rennes protest, the current government is not necessarily the target.

“We want to show the next government that we are still here and that they need to watch out,” said Mr Herbert. “We will not let them off the hook.”

Read more: SEE: support for French farmer protests higher than for gilets jaunes