Thousands of tractors block Berlin as farmers protest against agricultural policy

Jill Petzinger
Jill Petzinger, Germany Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
Tractors arrive at Brandenburg Gate as farmers gather for a demonstration against the agricultural policies of the federal government, in Berlin, Germany. Photo: Annegret Hilse/Reuters

Thousands of German farmers are converging outside the government headquarters in central Berlin on Tuesday to protest against the government’s agricultural policy.

Farmers say that the government’s stricter environmental protection laws, animal-welfare rules, and fertiliser regulations are threatening their livelihoods. The culture of “farmer bashing” has made their lives miserable, they claim.

Some 5,000 tractors are expected to bring the city centre to a standstill. They have been chugging in slow processions from all across the country, heading towards the capital during the past few days, with miles-long convoys inching along motorways over the weekend.

Farmers protest with their tractors against the government's environmental policies n Dortmund. Photo: Ina Fassbender/AFP via Getty Images

Under the banner “The countryside creates connection,” farmers and green industry players have formed an independent initiative to protest against new policies they believe are “endangering the economic power and social peace in rural areas in Germany.” The German Farmers Association is backing the protests.

In September, the German government passed a package of environment- and animal-protection measures that the farmers say will endanger their livelihoods, including one that makes financial support dependent on their adherence to environmental protection laws. The government’s tighter regulations for fertilisers, especially the plans to phase out glyphosate pesticides, are doing more harm than good, farmers say, and leading to swathes of land being damaged by under-fertilisation.

Farmers say they have been made into “bogeymen”, especially by environmentalists, noting that “farmer-bashing is leading to anger and frustration in the profession.” They say that discrimination and bullying against those connected to the farming community “is a daily occurrence” making farming as a profession less attractive.

Farmers with their tractors gather in Dortmund, western Germany. Photo: Ina Fassbender/AFP via Getty Images

They are also unhappy about the EU's Mercosur free trade agreement with South America, saying that it threatens to undercut their livelihoods with cheaper agricultural products.