April 23. 2024. 6:42

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Madrid braces as farmers extend protests

Madrid is bracing for traffic chaos on Wednesday as thousands of farmers are expected to protest against the latest government proposals, which they say are insufficient to maintain the economic viability of their farms and reduce the bureaucratic burden of Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) processing aid, among other demands.

On Monday, the main farmers’ organisations, including La Unión de Uniones de Agricultores y Ganaderos, Asaja, COAG and UPA, rejected the latest negotiating proposal presented by Agriculture Minister Luis Planas (PSOE/S&D) and decided to call a major “tractor demonstration”, Euractiv’s partner Efe Agro reported.

At least 500 tractors and 100 buses from all regions will participate in the huge demonstration against the government in front of the Agriculture Ministry headquarters in the city centre.

However, the final number of demonstrators could be much higher, as more farmers’ unions are expected to join, Luis Cortés, coordinator of the Spanish Federation of Farmers’ and Livestock Breeders’ Unions, said on Tuesday.

As in other EU countries, Spanish farmers have taken to the streets in recent weeks to demand changes, including greater flexibility in the EU’s CAP, compliance with the Food Chain Act – including the abolition of the ‘sale at a loss’ measure, which is an extension of the temporary tax reduction on agricultural diesel – and aid for sectors affected by the country’s ongoing drought.

At least six “columns” of tractors are expected to arrive in Madrid in the early hours of Wednesday from the various motorways linking the Spanish regions to the capital.

Last week, Planas submitted a list of 18 measures in an attempt to respond to their demands, although almost all the farmers’ organisations consider them to be “insufficient”.

Change policy or resign now!

Cortés described the government’s latest proposal as “deceitful” because – in his view – “none of these (18) measures are going to fix any of the problems” affecting the sector.

Farmers are so angry that they have warned that they will call on Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez to demand Plana’s resignation if he does not ‘change course’.

The Union of Unions of Farmers is demanding, among other things, that the current Spanish Food Chain Law be fully developed and improved to allow for the definition and calculation of production costs since, since the reform of the law in 2021, “not a single sanction has been imposed for not respecting the minimum price,” said Cortés.

Red tape and unfair competition

Cortés stressed that Spanish producers were “tired” of complying with bureaucratic measures dictated by Madrid that “do not benefit farmers, consumers and the environment”.

As an example of excessive bureaucracy, he cited the government’s requirements for maintaining plant cover, which is the same for regions such as Asturias and Andalusia, even though the two areas have very different climates.

He also criticised “unfair competition” from agricultural imports from third countries that do not meet EU standards and called for more inspection of third-country products at ports.

Farmers’ organisations are calling on the government to approve an “omnibus” decree that meets their needs, including changes to the Common Agricultural Policy, as European objectives “can be met with less absurd measures”, he said.

(Fernando Heller | EuroEFE.Euractiv.es)

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