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Angry French farmers with tractors are back on the streets of Paris for another protest

February 23, 2024

PARIS  — Angry farmers were back in Paris on their tractors in a new protest Friday demanding more government support and simpler regulations, on the eve of a major agricultural fair in the French capital.

Dozens of tractors drove peacefully into Paris carrying flags from Rural Coordination, the farmers’ union that staged the protest. The protesters then posed with their tractors on a bridge over the Seine River with the Eiffel Tower in the background, before heading towards the Vauban plaza in central Paris, where they all gathered for the demonstration.

The latest protest comes three weeks after farmers lifted roadblocks around Paris and elsewhere in the country after the government offered over 400 million euros ($433 million) to address their grievances over low earnings, heavy regulation and what they describe as unfair competition from abroad.

“Save our agriculture,” the Rural Coordination said on X, formerly Twitter. One tractor was carrying a poster reading: “Death is in the field.”

The convoy temporarily slowed traffic on the A4 highway, east of the capital, and on the Paris ring-road earlier on Friday morning.

French farmers’ actions are part of a broader protest movement in Europe against EU agriculture policies, bureaucracy and overall business conditions.

Farmers complain that the 27-nation bloc’s environmental policies, such as the Green Deal, which calls for limits on the use of chemicals and on greenhouse gas emissions, limit their business and make their products more expensive than non-EU imports.

Other protests are being staged across France as farmers seek to put pressure on the government to implement its promises.

Government officials have held a series of meetings with farmers unions in recent weeks to discuss a new bill meant to defend France’s “agricultural sovereignty,” and which will be debated in parliament this spring.

The government’s plan also includes hundreds of millions of euros in aid, tax breaks and a promise not to ban pesticides in France that are allowed elsewhere in Europe. French farmers say such bans put them at an unfair disadvantage.

Cyril Hoffman, a cereal producer in the Burgundy region and a member of the Rural Coordination, said farmers now want the government to “take action.”

He said his union is advocating for exempting the farming industry from free trade agreements.

“They can make free trade agreements but agriculture should not be part of them, so we can remain sovereign regarding our food,” Hoffman said. “Only in France do we let our farming disappear.”

French President Emmanuel Macron planned to visit the Paris Agricultural Fair on Saturday, though his office appeared to have removed his agenda a previously scheduled “big debate” with farmers and members of environmental groups at the event.

The president will meet with farmers’ unions before the fair’s opening, his office said late Friday.

Yet France’s major farmer’s union, the FNSEA, said Friday its board decided not to participate in the debate because “conditions for a peaceful dialogue are not met.” The FNSEA staged another protest in Paris, near the site of the fair, on Friday afternoon.

The Paris Agricultural Fair is one of the world’s largest farm fairs, drawing crowds every year.ope that America is still fighting for them.”

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