Protesters clashed with police in the towns of Bourges and Toulouse as farmers from across the country took a stand against policy changes dictated by Brussels. About 400 farmers drove into the towns on tractors. They had posters with inscriptions such as “Save your farmer” and “Macron, don’t do nonsense – there will be elections soon”. The regional branch of the French Farmers’ Association (FNSEA) and the young farmers’ organisation JA had called for the action.
The protesters gathered in Bourges in front of the building of the regional environmental and spatial planning authority.
They used a heavy tractor to break down a massive access gate and set fire to tyres and straw bales on the authority’s premises.
French media reported that there were arrests and that at least one police officer was injured.
Massive protests in the central French city of Clermont-Ferrand led to violent riots last month.
Farmers are demanding a “balanced and fair” Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
Cattle farmers in particular fear EU agricultural reform currently being negotiated will result in significant losses in income transfers.
Franck Leprêtre, President of the FNSEA Center-Val de Loire, said: “According to our estimates, with this reform we will lose around 80 euros per hectare; that’s 52 million euros for agriculture in the Center-Val de Loire.”
Mr Leprêtre fears that many farmers will not be able to adhere to the new organic regulations.
READ MORE Brexit LIVE: Leave voters on ‘right side of history’ over coronavirus
Further demonstrations and blockades are scheduled to take place across the country in the coing days.
France’s Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie is under growing pressure to stop the EU from accepting any further concessions which could harm the livelihoods of French farmers.
The new policy being debated in Brussels seeks to move more money from traditional direct payments into rural development, and place more obligations on farmers to engage in environmental improvement and innovation.
A new national strategic plan is being drawn up as France’s contribution to the ongoing EU debate about CAP reform.
The FNSEA wants coupled production supports retained for some sectors, especially livestock, and to prevent additional transfers of money.
(Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg)