France’s largest farm union FNSEA is considering nationwide protests in the coming weeks, a spokesperson said on Friday, potentially expanding action by farmers in the southwest who have blocked a highway and dumped manure on public buildings.

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A tractor bearing the slogan
A tractor bearing the slogan “We are on the straw” (A french expression signifying being financially ruined) dumps waste outside a government administrative building in Toulouse, on January 16, 2024. © Ed Jones / AFP

Like their German counterparts who held a massive demonstration over the weekend with tractors rumbling towards Berlin from every corner of the country, French farmers are mainly protesting against taxes and regulation.

The FSNEA will decide whether to organise nationwide action next Thursday after meeting local branch representatives and different farm sectors, the spokesperson said.

Hundreds of tractors and farmers from across southwest France have been protesting in the southwestern city of Toulouse this week, causing traffic jams.

Meanwhile in France 🇫🇷

Farmers protesting in Toulouse don’t hold back with how they show their displeasure against the French government. You mess with a French farmer at your peril.

— James Melville (@JamesMelville) January 16, 2024

On Friday they blocked the highway linking Toulouse to the Atlantic cost with a wall of hay. Farmers cite a government tax on tractor fuel, cheap imports, water storage issues, excessive restrictions and red tape among their grievances.

FNSEA farmers have been turning around road signs at the entrance of towns and villages across the country – in 12,000 districts out of a total of 36,000 – to express their discontent in a campaign called “We are walking on our heads”.

The protests in the European Union’s biggest agricultural producer come at a time when President Emmanuel Macron is wary of farmers’ growing support for the far-right ahead of the European Parliament elections in June.

Macron told his cabinet this week to pay careful attention to potential flashpoints for rural workers, to try to avoid further demonstrations and another flare-up of the so-called Yellow Vest protest movement, a minister told Politico.

In a sign of growing farmer anger in the EU, hundreds of Romanian farmers have also held protests this week.


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