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Massive Protests as German Farmers Decry Stringent Regulations

Frustrations at boiling point as farmers reject 'climate sinners' and 'animal abusers' labels

Over 10,000 German farmers used around 5,000 tractors to bring central Berlin to a standstill on Tuesday. The farmers converged on the Brandenburg Gate near the German parliament to protest against German and European Union (EU) agricultural policies they say are driving them to ruin and leading young farmers to flee the land.

Landwirtschaft in Deutschland braucht Unterstützung und eine Zukunftsperspektive ohne Überregulierung und Verbotspolitik. Kooperativer Naturschutz muss der Weg sein. #Bauernprotest in Berlin pic.twitter.com/Jy7HeDQslV

— DBV (@Bauern_Verband) November 26, 2019

Many tractors had traveled in convoy for days to reach Berlin, with the first vehicles arriving in Berlin from nearby Brandenburg before dawn on Tuesday. Broad sections of the city were blocked by slow-moving convoys, with the farmers planning to cause further disruptions as they left the area during evening rush hour. Police in Brandenburg reported two traffic accidents caused by cars trying to overtake tractor convoys on the way to Berlin.

Farmers park their tractors in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany, on Nov. 26, 2019. (Michael Sohn/AP)

Farmer organizations claimed that new environmental restrictions planned by Germanys Christian/Social Democratic coalition government are making it impossible for the countrys farmers to compete against imports from countries that do not observe similar controls. Many such countries can export their produce to EU countries like Germany. Farmers also vented their frustration at being blamed for any number of environmental problems, from animal welfare issues and nitrates in groundwater to climate change.

Low producer prices, red tape, and a population ever further removed from the land mean that farming in Germany has become considerably less attractive as a career. Furthermore, the clamor from powerful animal rights and environmental lobby groups in Germany regarding animal husbandry standards, the spreading of animal wastes and slurries on farmland, and methane emissions from ruminants have continued to grow, putting more pressure on farmers and agricultural systems.

A survey conducted in 2018 by the German Ministry of the Environment showed that 65 percent of Germans consider biodiversity loss to be “a very serious problem facing domestic agriculture,” with over 50 percent also concerned about pesticide use, groundwater and drinking water contamination by over-fertilization, and soil degradation due to monocultures.

68% der Befragten der neuen #Umweltbewusstseinsstudie des #UBA wünschen sich mehr Achtung von #Umwelt und #Klimaschutz in der #Landwirtschaft. 78% der Befragten meinen, dass die aktuelle #Agrarpolitik das nicht leistet. Was daraus folgen muss? #Agrarpolitik jetzt reformieren! pic.twitter.com/O8Ys7Mis6d

— DNR Biodiversität (@DNR_biodiv) May 28, 2019

There have even been reports (pdf) of schoolchildren from farming backgrounds being singled out by bullies because they come from farming families. President of the Rural Womens Association of Wurttemberg-Hohenzollern, Juliane Vees, stated her belief that lessons at state schools are no longer neutral or balanced. According to a statement, biased teaching materials from non-governmental organizations (NGOs), erroneous information in textbooks, or one-sided opinions from teachers during school lessons can create negative attitudes toward farmers and their children. “If the teacher actually invites representatives of radical animal rights or animal welfare organizations to the school, the situation can become a problem for farmers children,” said Vees.

Action Plan

In September, German Chancellor Angela Merkels cabinet enacted a new Action Program for Insect Protection (pdf) “to reverse the trend of declining insect abundance and species diversity.” While the legally binding plan will free up funding to create and restore insect habitats and green belts in cities, it will also further restrict the use of pesticides and artificial fertilizers farmers say are essential for producing everything from fruit and vegetables to crops and animal feedstuffs—as well as vast quantities of corn, which digester plants all over Germany turn into biogas to fuel the countrys so-called “energy transition” to less carbon-intensive sources of energy.

Among the chemicals to be banned is glyphosate, the active ingredient in the herbicide Roundup.

According to the German Environment Minister, Svenja Schulze, “The action program provides us with a package of measures that lays out precisely what the German government will do to halt the decline in insect numbers and diversity. I am particularly glad that we will be able to better protect insects in agriculture as well: The German government will ban the use of glyphosate as early as European law allows, in 2023, and will significantly limit itsRead More – Source

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