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Farmers in Italy, Spain and Poland Protest EU’s Green Agenda

MADRID (AP) – Farmers in Italy, Spain and Poland on Friday raised production costs, reduced profits and unfair competition from non-EU countries as part of ongoing protests against the European Union’s agricultural policies. A demonstration was held to demand countermeasures.

Similar protests have occurred across the bloc in recent weeks. Farmers complain that the 27-nation EU’s policies on the environment and other issues are costing them money, making their produce more expensive than imports from outside the EU.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive body, has made several concessions in recent weeks, including shelving plans to halve the use of pesticides and other hazardous substances. Nevertheless, protests grew.

In Poland, where imports of cheap grain, milk and other agricultural products from Ukraine have caused particular outrage, farmers have been driving tractors across the country to reduce traffic and block major roads, with some Some farmers held up signs that read, “EU policies are ruining Polish farmers.”

Access roads to the border crossings with Ukraine in Khrebenne and Drokhask in the east were temporarily closed.

Pozna, Poland – 02/09/2024: Farmers from the Greater Poland region drive tractors blocking the Aleja-Niepodlegrosz road during the nationwide farmers’ strike. (Photo by Dominika Zarzycka/SOPA Images/LightRocket, Getty Images)

In the western city of Poznan, police estimated that around 1,400 tractors entered the roads and reached the regional governor’s office. Demonstrators lit smoke bombs there and placed a coffin symbolizing the death of Polish agriculture and a wheelbarrow full of fertilizer with an EU flag stuck on it. No acts of violence were reported.

Deputy Prime Minister Władysław Kosinak-Kamisz and opposition leaders called on Janusz Wojciechowski, the EU commissioner for agriculture and former Polish agriculture minister, to resign. Mr Wojciechowski responded: “I am not going to act under pressure.”

Organizers the Union of Individual Farmers Solidarity said EU policies had triggered the protests.

They said storage warehouses were full of grain from Ukraine, causing prices to drop by 40% in 2023. Demand for sugar, milk and meat in Poland is falling, and as a result farmers are holding back on investment.

Farmers also fear that the EU’s Green Deal, which calls for limits on chemical use and greenhouse gas emissions, will lead to lower production and incomes.

In Italy, a small convoy of tractors moved across Rome’s historic center to the Colosseum on Friday morning, escorted by police patrols.

Rome, Italy - 02/09/2024: Italian farmers drive tractors on the street during a rally. Hundreds of tractors driven by farmers converged on the outskirts of Rome as part of a wave of protests in Europe against the impact of government measures that cut down on agricultural products due to cheaper imports from third countries, soaring fuel costs and government measures.  (Photo by Stefano Costantino/SOPA Images/LightRocket, Getty Images)

Rome, Italy – 2024/02/09: Italian farmers drive tractors on the street during a rally. Hundreds of tractors driven by farmers converged on the outskirts of Rome as part of a wave of protests in Europe against the impact of government measures that cut down on agricultural products due to cheaper imports from third countries, soaring fuel costs and government measures. (Photo by Stefano Costantino/SOPA Images/LightRocket, Getty Images)

Peasants have been peacefully protesting on the outskirts of Rome and across the country for several days to express their dissatisfaction.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has repeatedly said that her country’s right-wing government is already addressing some of the farmers’ key demands, but that she feels many of them are being ignored.

Meloni emphasized that the government has already allocated an additional 3 billion euros from the EU’s post-pandemic recovery fund for Italy, bringing the total resources dedicated to the agricultural sector to 8 billion euros.

At a roundtable on Friday afternoon with ministers and representatives of some of the main agricultural organizations (not including representatives of the protest movement), the Italian prime minister also announced that the income tax exemption for farmers, which has been in effect since 2017, will be extended to low-income earners. It was also agreed that the extension would be limited to limited persons. breadwinner.

But many Italian farmers complain that they do not feel represented by large sector organizations and are kept out of their daily struggles.

Late on Friday, several protest representatives met separately with Agriculture Minister Francesco Lollobrigida, but that still prevented a new convoy of hundreds of tractors from beginning its march on Rome’s main motorway ring road. I couldn’t.

ARGANDA DEL REY, MADRID, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 10: Fifth day of protests by farmers and ranchers demanding improvements in the agricultural sector on February 10, 2024 in Arganda del Rey, Madrid, Spain. several tractors were stopped on the road.  Platform 6F called on farmers and ranchers to enter Madrid by tractor in order to reach the PSOE headquarters in Feras. Today is the fifth day of protests, with farmers and ranchers taking to the roads with tractors to demand improvements in the sector, including aid to address the drought the countryside is suffering from. They also protest European policies and lack of profitability.  (Photo by Alejandro Martínez Vélez/Europe Press via Getty Images)

ARGANDA DEL REY, MADRID, SPAIN – FEBRUARY 10: Protests by farmers and ranchers demanding improvements in the agricultural sector enter their fifth day in Arganda del Rey, Madrid, Spain, on February 10, 2024. While this was being carried out, several tractors stopped on the road. (Photo by Alejandro Martínez Vélez/Europe Press via Getty Images)

Spanish farmers took similar actions during their fourth consecutive day of protests.

Separate to EU policy, Spanish farmers say laws aimed at ensuring wholesalers at big supermarkets pay fair prices for their products are not being enforced as consumer prices soar. claims.

Friday’s protests were centered in the northern cities of Oviedo, Pamplona and Zaragoza, with tractors clogging several city streets and commuter roads. In many places, farmers continued their protests throughout the night.

Groups not affiliated with Spain’s three main agricultural associations called on farmers to move to Madrid at midnight to join Saturday’s protest near the headquarters of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s Socialist Party.

Demonstrations are expected to continue in the coming weeks, with a large protest planned to be organized in the capital on February 21st.

Spanish media outlets have reported that many of the protests are linked to conservative and far-right groups.

Police said 20 people were arrested during this week’s protests.

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