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Tractors in force in Brussels, the 27 ready to revise the CAP

Farmers faced hardship the anti-riot police Monday in the streets of Brussels paralyzed by hundreds of tractors, on the sidelines of a meeting of ministers of the Twenty-Seven ready to ; revise the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

As on February 1, the Belgian capital was the scene of a show of force from the agricultural world, standing up against the regulatory “burden”, unfair competition from cheap imports and the fall of remuneration.

Some 900 tractors were counted by the police, who barricaded the European district. Without injuries or violent clashes, the face-to-face situation was tense: the authorities responded with tear gas and water cannons to egg throwing, tire burnings and fireworks.

Some 700 foreign demonstrators, mainly from Italy and Spain, were present, according to the police.

Under pressure from Member States, the European Commission presented on Monday its first ideas for “simplifying” the CAP rules.

Without defusing the exasperation of the demonstrators, including delegations from Spain, Portugal and the Italian Coldiretti confederation rubbed shoulders with Belgian organizations.

“We have been protesting for months, they keep procrastinating”, s annoys Marieke Van de Vivere, who works on the family farm, attacking the regulatory “madness”. +Green Deal+ orders us how to manage the manure, where it goes… it's astonishing”.

– “First concrete step” –

“So much bureaucracy that we can no longer produce. We need a policy that guarantees profitability, generational change,” says Adoración Blanque, from the Young Spanish Farmers.

Tractors in force in Brussels, the 27 ready to revise the CAP

Demonstration of peasant organizations “United Federation of Breeders and Farmers Groups” (FUGEA), Boerenforum and MAP, in Brussels, February 26, 2024 © AFP – NICOLAS MAETERLINCK

After an exemption already approved for fallow land, the obligations to maintain permanent meadows could be relaxed. Several States are also asking for flexibilities on crop rotation.

Tolerance would be granted to farmers who do not respect the CAP criteria due to climatic episodes. Finally, reporting requirements would be eased, inspection visits halved.

“These measures will be the very first concrete step to address concerns, but it is not is not enough” and the States “invite the Commission to quickly complete them with new, more ambitious measures”, concluded Belgian Minister David Clarinval, whose country holds the presidency of the EU.

Beyond these short-term measures, which the European executive could quickly ratify, Brussels has opened the door to “medium-term” legislative revisions, in negotiation with states and MEPs, of the CAP adopted in 2021.

In the immediate future, “something pragmatic, operational (…) is needed within the current rules”, said the French minister Marc Fesneau upon his arrival.

“But certain things require modifying the basic act. That this legislative modification spans the European elections (in June) has not been of importance. The important thing is to set a trajectory, lay the foundations for a CAP which reassures” in the long term, he insisted.

At the same time , Paris calls for amending legislation in preparation restricting polluting emissions from poultry and pig farms.

– “Bureaucratic monster” –

Tractors in force in Brussels, the 27 ready to revise the CAP

Federal Minister of Agriculture Cem Ozdemir and Renate Kuenast (Greens) on February 23, 2024 in the Bundestag in Berlin © AFP – Odd ANDERSEN

“There is a lot of anger: the current CAP is a bureaucratic monster” and reforms are “necessary” to promote “work in the fields rather than paperwork”, conceded German Minister Cem Özdemir.

But without “false solutions”: “We must guarantee that we can make money from biodiversity. Anyone who advocates a pause in climate protection is anything but a friend of farmers”, he warns, while the specter of an unraveling of green bonds looms.

Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski said he was open to making simply “incentivize” several environmental conditions (fallow, crop rotation, etc.).

“There is support from States and MEPs. It is theoretically possible to achieve it by summer”, he pleaded.

Outside of the CAP, “there are elements (of legislation) of the Green Deal which are requested from farmers but not remunerated, this is the heart of the problem”, added David Clarinval.

Tractors in force in Brussels, the 27 ready to revise the CAP

Polish Minister of Agriculture Czeslaw Siekierski (L to R), Belgian Minister of Agriculture David Clarinval and Hungarian Secretary of State for Agriculture Zsolt Feldman in Brussels on February 26, 2024 © AFP – JOHN THYS

Agricultural organizations are demanding a “definitive end” to trade negotiations with the South American Mercosur countries, and a “better sharing of value” with manufacturers and distributors.

A “vast” but vital structural project according to Vincent Delobel, goat breeder and administrator of the Walloon Fugea union: “We can't make a living from our work , the PAC bonuses come in infusion”.

Another explosive subject: Brussels has proposed measures to restrict Ukrainian imports, accused of hampering the markets, but without reassuring. In Poland, farmers are still blocking border crossings.

All rights of reproduction and representation reserved. © (2024) Agence France-Presse

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116