Farmers, the protest reaches Belgium

0
35
Fair-milk_EMB_24

The farmers’ protest reaches Belgium and Brussels, with tractors from FUGEA (Fédération Unie de Groupements d’Éleveurs et d’Agriculteurs) and FWA (Fédération Wallonne de l’Agriculture) in the streets of the four corners of Wallonia.

A week of mobilizations between Namur, Liège, Luxembourg, Hainaut, to claim everyone’s priority which was also reiterated in Brussels by EMB (European Milk Board), the representation of milk producers in Europe.

Our number one request is simple: live with dignity from our profession! FUGEA asks fair prices and fair incomes! The priorities are to get out of the inconsistencies of European policies and the predatory practices of agro-industry. Start the tractors and join us in the various columns‘. (1)

1) Farmers in Belgium, the roots of the protest

To understand the difficulty in economic terms, I took over a farm 30 years ago. At the time, we sold a ton of wheat for 200 euros. Today we sell the same ton for 170 euros, while fertilizers, energy and labor have increased up to 5 times. Even though farms have expanded, allowing us to achieve economies of scale, this situation is unsustainable. We can’t make the transition‘ (Thomas Gadisseux Hugues Falys, FUGEA). (2)

2) #fairprice, NO #belowcost

The price of agricultural commodities and food products must be fair, i.e. capable of:

– cover the actual production costs, to be recorded and updated on a monthly basis in the various supply chains and territories, as well

– guarantee farmers and breeders (as well as food processing companies, which are also predominantly medium, small and microscopic) a decent income.

Member States must therefore:

– prohibit sales below cost

– introduce effective systems for real-time monitoring of production costs and price lists in the various supply chains and territories

– require evidence of the prices on the invoice, in comparison with the costs and price lists

– organize systematic checks through tax inspectors.

The UTPs Directive – Unfair Trading Practices Directive (EU) 2019/633 – must thus be integrated, its contents transferred into a European regulation to guarantee uniform rules in the Single Market.

3) Support for the ecological transition

We are aware that agriculture must move towards a more sustainable model, a model in transition that is more respectful of the earth and living beings. We don’t want to take steps backwards‘, declares the FUGEA spokesperson. In line with Confédération paysanne in France, Assorurale, Altragricoltura and LiberiAgricoltori in Italy. (2)

The ecological transition is necessary to guarantee the resilience of agricultural activities to climate change which in Europe manifests itself above all in soil drought and desertification. However, it must be supported by a #fairprice and financing of the high costs it requires. The same goes for improving animal welfare.

4) Stop to dumping socio-environmental dumping

European policies are simply dissociated:

– ever more burdens and bureaucratic requirements in the European Union

– ultra-liberalism in trade and imports from non-EU countries.

The Green Deal is essential, but not in the schizophrenic way in which we see it today, where on the one hand Europe signs international agreements that allow the entry of agricultural products that do not meet the same economic, social and environmental standards as ours, and on the other imposes very strict environmental standards on us‘ (Thomas Gadisseux Hugues Falys, FUGEA). (2)

5) Put a stop to bureaucracy

Farmers express widespread frustration and send an alarm signal about the future of food self-sufficiency and that of future generations of farmers. The men and women who work the land fear their end, crushed by a legislative steamroller, administrative overload, agriculture based on legal calendars and an income that is still halfway there, despite the efforts already made by the sector‘ (FWA). (4)

Administrative simplification promised for years, FWA reports, never materialized. Instead, the opposite happens: the bureaucratic burdens on agricultural businesses are increasingly complex. Unsustainable for the farmers of the older generation, who still represent the majority and therefore tend to abandon their activities or sell them to large agro-industrial groups.

6) Regulate the market, support the Green Deal

Subsidies? No thank you! What we need a profound market reform‘, forcefully stated the president of the European Milk Board (EMB), which represents more than 100.000 milk producers in 16 European countries.

The protests which are multiplying in Europe’for different reasons‘, explains Kjartan Poulsen, they hide all ‘the same underlying problem. An insufficient remuneration for agricultural producers for years‘.

Milk producers are not against the European Green Deal, which aims to green the agricultural sector by reducing the use of plant protection products and preserving biodiversity. But farms cannot be transformed without profitable prices‘. (6)

#fairprice

Dario Dongo

Footnotes

(1) Farmers in colère: des ralliement à Ciney, Andenne, Fosses-la-Ville et Thorembais-Saint-Trond ce Mardi avant de rejoindre Namur. Sudinfo.be. 29.1.24 http://tinyurl.com/yc24s7sc

(2) Mobilization of farmers: “The fact that Europe stops signing international agreements”, assures Hugues Falys (FUGEA). Rtbf.be. 29.1.24 http://tinyurl.com/axb664kv

(3) Dario Dongo. Confédération paysanne and LiberiAgricoltori, the reasons for the protestGIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 29.1.24

(4) TROP IS YOU VEEL – La FWA veut faire entendre la voix des agriculteurs. Fédération Wallonne de l’Agriculture (FWA). 26.1.24 http://tinyurl.com/2e5mn8mr

(5) Benoît Lutgen on the grogne des agriculteurs: “Les agriculteurs sont restless. Mais les consommateurs devraient l’être aussi”. BX1. 29.1.24 http://tinyurl.com/36a9m92j

(6) Grogne du mondeagricoltura: l’EMB veut une réforme et des prix rémunérateurs. Sudinfo.be. 24.1.24 http://tinyurl.com/59ak6y4h

+ posts

Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.