French Farmers protest fertilizer tax
FSNEA action via Twitter (@ChLambert_FNSEA)

The low pitch rumble and hum of tractor engines and the thump, thump, thump of steel-capped leather boots filled the streets of Clermont Ferrand, France, as over 2,000 French farmers and 400 tractors marched and rolled into Pace de Jaude, the city square, on March 25.

Farmers descended into the town in protest over new legislation aimed at taxing the use of nitrogen fertilizer. It was a show of union power against a national food law and CAP (European Union’s common agricultural policy) reform, according to FNSEA (Federation Nationale des Syndicats d’exploitants agricoles), France’s largest farmers union, and Jeunes Agriculteurs (national youth farmer organization).

Tractor after tractor rammed down lamp posts and street signs, while others dumped manure into the streets and sidewalks. The 10:00 a.m. protest was dispersed by 5:00 p.m. as French police, squaring off against machine and farmer alike, fired tear gas into the crowd.

The new Climate and Resilience Bill, which farmers describe as a “punitive and unfair” nitrogen fee, would “stigmatize” the use of chemical fertilizer without providing any alternatives, the FNSEA said. The union went on to say the new legislation had ignored the changes already taking place in farmers’ practices and would reduce farm incomes without giving a “real response” to current climate issues.

The potential fertilizer fee coupled with the Egalim Law (French food law balancing producers and large-scale buyers), which has put agriculture produce prices well below production costs, could be disastrous to farmers and their families.

“There will be no food sovereignty in France without fair remuneration for farmers, who must make a decent living from their profession,” read a joint statement by the FSNEA and Jeunes Agriculteurs. “This fairer remuneration should make it possible to encourage young people to choose agriculture.

“The profession has waited too long for value to return to farmyards, and this is putting too many farms at risk, the Egalim law must be strengthened.”

This action is just the latest in a string of demonstrations over the last two years by farmers against EU agriculture policies aimed at downsizing the EU’s farming subsidies program, along with protests in Ireland and Germany over similar cuts to agriculture subsidies, and a reduction in agriculture prices not suitable for production costs.


Al Neal
Al Neal

Award winning journalist Al Neal is PW associate editor for labor and politics. He is also the chief photographer for People's World. He is a member of the Chicago News Guild, Society of Professional Journalists, Professional Photographers of America, National Sports Media Association, and The Ernest Brooks Foundation.