Farmers besiege Paris: “Citizens will starve”

“Siege of Paris”. This is the slogan used by French farmers who, starting at 14:00 on Monday, January 29, began blocking access to the capital with their tractors. The aim is to “threaten” the government into better working conditions and income. Following the recent closure of France’s main highways, the trans-Alpine countryside, dissatisfied with President Emmanuel Macron’s answers, decided to move towards Paris. Coordinating the initiative are the two main unions in the country: the National Federation of Farmers’ Unions (Fnsea) and Jeunes Agricultueurs (JA – Young farmers). There are other rural organizations that help them, but the idea of ​​protesting to the fullest comes from these two parallel realities. Fnsea’s leader is a landowner who specializes in the sale of agricultural products and is the head of the department. youth instead there is a cow farmer.

Reasons for the siege

Representatives of Europe’s largest agricultural producer began protests last week, demanding less bureaucracy and less restrictive environmental policies. In their view, it is European Union rules and the lack of support from the government, which aims to cut or at any rate replace historic subsidies, that is hurting profits and making them less competitive compared to foreign rivals. They are demanding more incentives and fewer restrictions on sustainability, even though a third of the EU budget is allocated to agriculture through European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) funds and their sector contributes 19% of greenhouse gas emissions. The plan is to “choke” access to Paris after tractors and trucks were used to block traffic in the Hexagon. On Monday, January 29, eight “checkpoints” were set up on major highways several dozen kilometers from the Paris ring road. The affected areas are Chennevières (A1 motorway), near Jossigny (A4), in Ourdy (A5), in Villabé (A6), at Buchelay toll booth (A13), in Longvilliers (A10), near Gennevilliers bridge and on the Isle. -Man (A16).

landowner leader

Commanding the siege is Arnaud Rousseau, leader of the powerful France union. When he was unhappy with the government’s proposals after a meeting at the weekend, he decided to aim higher. “What we need are decisions that we think will change the software of the system,” he told farmers while visiting a group blocking the A16 motorway north of Paris. Rousseau does not quite fit the stereotypical “small farmer” profile.

Arnaud Rousseau

After a course at the European Business School in Paris, he began his career in brokering and trading agricultural commodities, i.e. their sale on financial markets. In 2002, he joined the management of a giant company with his father on an area of ​​approximately 700 hectares, where wheat, rapeseed, sunflower, beet and corn are grown. All raw materials for large-scale distribution, processing/preservation and feed industries. But what Rousseau decides to point out is not the prices offered by industry, which are often very low and unfair. Rather, he chose to oppose the policies of the Elysée and Brussels.

sick farming system

The protests also gained support from climate activists, who poured soup over the Mona Lisa (which was preserved and undamaged): Activists stood and asked, “Which is more important? Art or the right to a healthy and sustainable diet?” they shouted. We are talking about a sick agricultural system in front of the table.

Another reference point for the protests is Arnaud Gaillot, who was elected in June 2022 as the head of Young Farmers, Fnsea’s arm for agricultural entrepreneurs under 38 years of age. After an experience in the public sector, Gaillot decided to return to the Doubs department in the Burgundy-Franche-Comté region. There, together with a partner, he manages a 140-hectare agricultural company specializing in cow breeding, producing 580 thousand liters of milk for the production of Comté and Morbier cheeses. Even his company’s numbers are not as good as those of smaller manufacturers.

depriving Parisians of food

Rural Coordination (Cr), France’s second largest agricultural union, is contributing in parallel to the protests, whose aim is to block access to the Rungis market, the largest food market in France and Europe. “If there are no supplies for a few days, maybe Parisians will understand the importance of agriculture in our country,” said Serge Bousquet-Cassagne, president of the Chamber of Agriculture of Lot-et-Garonne and a grain and plum producer. Rural Coordination’s action was described as “complementary” to that of Fnsea and Young Farmers. Some of its members decided to join the “angry protest” launched in Paris.

Rungis market covers an area of ​​234 hectares, where 13 thousand employees work. Since last night, two armored gendarmerie vehicles have been sent for observation purposes, complementing the long barrier line placed to filter incoming arrivals. Many market workers, the newspaper reported Liberation They showed solidarity with the farmers’ protest in a report.

Elysée’s fears

Rungis, along with Orly Airport in its immediate vicinity, is one of the places where Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin fears protests the most. The head of the ministry said the following about the ‘siege’: “We do not intend to allow government buildings, tax collection buildings, grocery stores to be damaged or to stop trucks carrying foreign products. Frankly, this is unacceptable.” The minister appointed by Macron to ensure security in the country said that the police and gendarmerie were ordered to prevent any attack on Paris. The concessions announced so far to defuse the crisis have not been enough for Prime Minister Gabriel Attal to calm the anger in the countryside.

Source: Today IT