German farmers protest restrictive regulations benefiting big agri-business

Farmers believe the new restrictions on the use of fertilizers and insecticides will worsen the plight of the small farmers in the country

January 21, 2020 by Peoples Dispatch
German farmers protest
More than 25,000 people participated in the farmers protest in Berlin, on Saturday. (Photo: Wir haben es satt)

On January 18, Saturday, tens of thousands marched across German cities, protesting the government’s new restrictive regulations in the sector, and the tacit support given to big agri-business. More than 25,000 people marched in Berlin alone as part of the protests. Many also brought their tractors to the marches organized in other cities. The central slogan of the protests is, “Wir haben es satt!” (we’re fed up).

Protesters allege that the government imposed new regulations, including restrictions on the use of fertilizers, manure and pesticides, without consulting the farmers. They have been justified as a step towards checking insect depopulation and the rising nitrate levels in soil. However, the regulations are likely to negatively impact small-scale farmers, who have already been pushed to the brink by the large-scale agri-industries and exploitative real estate groups operating in the country. 

Protesters also demanded that a new scientific study be undertaken to determine the specific causes behind insect de-population, along with an objective investigation to distinguish between the nitrate level increase in soil caused by agricultural and industrial sources.

DW.com reported that the German government had approved a legislation calling for a ban on the controversial herbicide glyphosate by the end of 2023, and for tightening the restrictions on slurry and fertilizers, in September of last year.

However, Land schafft Verbindung (LsV) claims that the “restrictive measures will drive up farming costs, which means supermarkets will look to cheap imports. And so our regional food production, which is constantly being demanded in society, will be weakened even further.”

“Currently, an average agricultural worker in Germany earns just €22,000 (USD 24,400), and more than half of German farmers have shut down their businesses in the last few years,” LsV added.

Regarding Saturday’s mobilization, “Wir haben es satt!” stated that the German government “continues to give billions of subsidies to large landowners, regardless of how they farm. The same subsidies are benefiting investors who are buying more and more arable land. In the past 10 years, arable land ownership has concentrated in the hands of few but larger agro-industries, causing the closure of over 100,000 farms in Germany.”

The Die Linke (The Left) also expressed solidarity with the farmers and joined the protests on Saturday in various German cities, including in Berlin.

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