French farmers dump manure on major throughways

Pont de Normandie one of the sites for French farmer protests

Pont de Normandie one of the sites for French farmer protests

Tuesday, July 21. The Pont de Normandie is a beautiful piece of engineering, and the main throughway from the port city of Le Havre southwards. It’s rush hour. We’re lucky, we’re on the northbound lane. Is that an accident ahead on the southbound one? It’s not. It’s three big tractors with trailers filled with manure, standing crossways over the highway on the bridge. Traffic is backed up for miles, with only one of the three lanes open. Wow. Who’s got the courage to do that, and why?
It’s French farmers. They’ve had enough of ever sinking commodity prices, especially for livestock farmers. One out of every ten farmers is on the brink of bankruptcy, I read in the papers afterwards. Desperate farmers are taking desperate measures. Last Saturday they blocked several main border crossings from Germany and Spain, stopping all trucks and forcing those carrying agricultural products to turn back. All under the eyes of the police. The French farm organisations insist the playing ground is unfair. German farmers can import cheap labour from Eastern Europe. French farmers have more stringent agriculture regulations. They want the government to do something, now.
Watch this video to get an idea of the scope of the protests: It’s in German, but you’ll get the idea.

The reasons given for the poor commodity prices especially meat and milk, are changing French diets, reduced demand from China and the Russian embargo. The French government has promised a meeting with the farmers to seek a solution. The German government has demanded French farmers to allow the free flow of goods into France. It’s hard to know how much, if anything, will really change for the French farmers, but I admire their courage.

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