- Farmers across Germany on Monday began protests against the government’s economic and agricultural policy plans that would see reduced subsidies for the sector.
- They blocked roads and highways with tractors throughout the country.
- Robert Habeck, Germany’s minister for economic affairs and climate action, called for debates about solutions for the issues farmers are experiencing.
Farmers across Germany on Monday began protests against the government’s economic and agricultural policies, blocking roads and highways with tractors and marching through major cities.
Some signs carried by protesters and attached to tractors had messages such as “no farmer, no food, no future” and “when farmers are ruined, food has to be imported” written on them. Others called for new elections and called the coalition government “senseless” and “incompetent”.
A spokesperson for the German government was not immediately available when contacted by CNBC.
Local media quoted police authorities as saying some farmers had dumped hay, animal feed and manure on roads in an effort to block them.
Farmers are protesting the government’s plans to reduce or withdraw tax breaks for the agriculture sector, which were announced in late December as part of the 2024 budget.
The plans included subsidy cuts for fuel usage by farmers and tax breaks for farming vehicles which sparked anger among farmers who say this would endanger their livelihood.
Germany’s 2024 budget plans include significant cuts and limitations to make up for a financing hole worth tens of billions of euros shortly after the constitutional court ruled that a re-allocation of emergency Covid-19 funds to the current budget was unlawful.
The government has since walked back some of its plans for the agriculture sector, saying last week that tax exemptions for agricultural vehicles would continue and subsidies for fuel would be gradually phased out rather than fully axed imminently.
The German Famer’s Association said these steps do not go far enough and pushed ahead with protests.
‘Serious and honest’ debates
One regional farmer’s association said via a post on X, formerly Twitter, that the protests also aim to ensure Europe-wide competitiveness by German agriculture, the future of local produce and jobs in the agriculture industry amongst other factors.
Several lawmakers — including from the coalition government’s own parties — on Monday called for the government to walk back its policy plans entirely. It ramps up the pressure on a goverment already under intense scrutiny.
Robert Habeck, Germany’s minister for economic affairs and climate action, on Monday addressed the issues in a video posted on X.
“They [farmers] work seven days a week, are always available and when others take their annual vacation, they have their harvest time. Yes, they work under significant economic pressure, price pressure from discount supermarket chains, from big slaughterhouses and dairy producers, the uncertain global market,” he said according to a CNBC translation.
There is a major structural issue in that famers often can’t pass on higher production costs as they do not influence product prices, Habeck said. This forces them to ramp up production and endangers small businesses, he added, acknowledging that this prompts those affected to demand subsidies.
Habeck said there are other ways around these issues and called for “serious and honest” debates about potential solutions.
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