HomeIdeaGermany, the great farmers' protest. Here is why

Germany, the great farmers' protest. Here is why

Farmers and transporters in Germany took to the streets with tractors and trucks on January 8, 2024, to kick off a week of demonstrations. However, the real reasons for the protest have already been widely misrepresented, as often happens.

The official documents of the organizations promoting the protest and the interviews we conducted with some breeders and farmers participating in the mobilization allow us to delve deeper into the matter. Brief considerations to follow.

1) Germany, the protest of farmers and transporters

The mobilization was announced by the German Farmers' Union (Deutscher Bauernverband, DBV) and the Federal Association for Freight Transport Logistics and Disposal (Bundesverband Güterkraftverkehr Logistik und Entsorgung, BGL) from 8 to 12 January across Germany, with a large joint demonstration in Berlin on 15 January 2024.

'Farmers, the transport industry, freight forwarders and truck drivers express their dissatisfaction with the federal government's budget expenditure throughout Germany with demonstrations, rallies or rallies. At a national level, over 100 actions will take place in all federal states to warn the population and politicians against putting at risk the competitiveness and existence of farmers and medium-sized transport companies.

For competitive agriculture, the support for agricultural diesel and exemption from vehicle taxes they are essential. The German Farmers' Association, together with the state farmers' associations and LsV Deutschland, is therefore calling for the tax increases planned by the federal government for agriculture to be withdrawn.

The Federal Association for Freight Transport Logistics and Disposal (Bundesverband Güterkraftverkehr Logistik und Entsorgung, BGL) eV calls for the coalition's commitment to avoid double pricing of CO2 emissions for tolls and diesel, that toll harmonization programs be doubled to 900 million euros and that more funds be allocated for intact roads and bridges, truck parking and reliable financing programs for climate-friendly road freight transport'. (1)

2) Scholz government, disorganized reactions

The government led by Olaf Scholz had already tried to appease the farmers on January 4-5. But the coalition of social democrats (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands, SDU), greens and liberals (Free Democratic Party, FDU) had expressed mixed reactions:

– Cem Özdemir, the (Green) Minister of Agriculture, proposed to phase out the motor vehicle tax subsidy for agricultural and forestry vehicles (40% in 2024, 30% in 2025 and 30% in 2026);

– Christian Lindner (liberal) Finance Minister, the following day, urged farmers to 'back off', adding that agriculture is 'a highly subsidized sector', according to der Spiegel.

Not enough to postpone the measures, replied the president of the German Farmers' Association (DBV). 'The reduction of subsidies puts agricultural production in Germany at risk' (Joachim Rukwied).

The opposition, as is logical, took the side of farmers and transporters. A golden opportunity for the Christian Democrats (Christlich Demokratische Union Deutschlands, Christlich-Soziale Union in Bayern. CDU/CSU), the far right (alternative for Germany, AfD) and the centre-right populists (Freie Wähler).

3) Farmers' voices. Skyrocketing costs

The block of roads and motorways by tractors, in recent days in Germany, offered an opportunity to a friend of GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade) to collect some live testimonies from some demonstrators at the Kist motorway entrance, about 90 km to the south of Frankfurt.

'Protest is necessary', explain the farmers and breeders interviewed, 'because since the beginning of the war in Ukraine our production costs have skyrocketed. Energy and fertilizers have blown the books. (2) Now also diesel, which would force us to change tractors! And with what money?'

4) Inflation, firm price lists, unfair competition

Inflation devours the incomes of farmers and breeders, but the price lists of their products have remained stagnant. Primary agricultural production finds itself between a rock and a hard place, since on the other hand neither the processing industry nor the 'retail' are willing to recognize their higher costs, in the name of the need to keep prices under control for consumption. Although the phenomena of greedflation and shrinkflation have already been recorded in various EU countries (3,4,5).

'We are forced to sell at the imposed prices, often below cost, otherwise we no longer work', explain the farmers we interviewed. 'And our products are now also subject to unfair competition from those arriving from Ukraine. Industrial and large-scale retail giants are stocking up on eggs, honey and sugar at off-market prices'. Goods of uncertain origin, without official controls in the country of shipment.

EU imports from Ukraine

5) Unfair commercial practices

Unfair Trading Practices (UTPs) Directive (EU) No 2019/633, as we have seen, introduced a series of measures to protect food suppliers from unfair contractual clauses imposed on them by their customers (industry and retail. See notes 6,7) . Between the shirts of the 'Blacklists' and of 'gray list' - that is, respectively, the practices that are always prohibited and those permitted under certain conditions - the European legislator has not, however, clarified the prohibition of sales below cost.

The application of the UTPs Directive has been very effective in countries such as France, not surprisingly first in Europe for the value of agricultural production. (8) Completely ineffective, vice versa, in countries like Italy where unacceptable exceptions have been introduced - in internal relations with cooperatives and producer organizations (9) - and there is a lack of transparency on production costs and market trends. (10) Below-cost sales and B2B promotions are so out of control (11,12). And in Germany the situation does not seem to be any better.

6) Budget maneuvers and cuts to subsidies

Predictable outcomes of the European permacrisis - between stability pacts, ESM (13) and the arms race - are bloody budget maneuvers and cuts to every form of subsidy to the weakest social categories, including farmers. So, for example:

– Olaf Scholz, also forced by the Constitutional Court to fill a €60 billion hole in public accounts, cut diesel subsidies for German farmers. Provisional result, 'only one in three voters today would vote for one of the three parties in government' (Hermann Blinkert, German Institute for New Social Answers, INSA). (14)

– Giorgia Meloni, before conversing with the German Chancellor on the priority of military and economic aid to Kiev, (15) eliminated the exemptions on cadastral taxes on agricultural land and the exemption from contributions for young farmers. In a country where thelength of service'in agriculture'it positions itself in the danger zone' (ISMEA, 2020. See note 10).

7) Agricultural confederations and conflicts of interest

The big agricultural confederations (i.e. Copa-Cogeca and Farm Europe at European level, Coldiretti in Italy) should protect farmers from cost inflation and price compression. So for example:

– call for the restoration of trade relations with Russia, to put an end to the crisis of strategic natural resources;

– contest the diversion of public resources, from agriculture to the defense sector;

– demand the application of the UTPs Directive, the ban on sales below cost, transparency in the value chain. (16)

Conflicts of interest of the large agricultural confederations instead explain the failure of their institutional mission:

– connivance with commodity traders, the processing industry and retail (17) explains the boycott of the directive on unfair commercial practices (8,18);

– the symbiosis with Big Ag he then explains the support for new GMOs (19) and the boycott of the SUR regulation (20), to increase the profits of global pesticide and seed monopolists (at the expense of farmers).

8) Farm to fork, the viral deception

The viral deception carried out by the large agricultural confederations is now to attribute the crisis of European agriculture not to its true causes, highlighted in the previous paragraphs, but to their own inability or unwillingness to address them. But to the European #Farm2Fork strategy which for the first time, with audacity, proposed to emancipate European farmers from the dependence on chemical inputs in agriculture.

The strategy Farm to Fork indicated growth objectives for agricultural surfaces dedicated to organic farming, the costs of which are not linked to the variability of input costs, as well as being more profitable for farmers. Objectives of restoring degraded areas and protecting soil, to promote productivity. But its application was prevented precisely by the large agricultural confederations.

9) Provisional conclusions

Applause and solidarity with German farmers for raising their voices. Beware of deception and exploitation by unfaithful representatives of those who work the land.

#CleanSpades

Dario Dongo

Footnotes

(1) Deutscher Bauernverband. Landwirtschaft und Transportgewerbe demonstrieren gemeinsam ab 8. Januar 2024. Press release, 8.1.24 http://tinyurl.com/3kpfndvh

(2) Dario Dongo. Gas and electricity, an announced crisis. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 20.3.22

(3) Marta Strinati, Dario Dongo. Greedflation, the super profits of corporations and supermarkets in the UK with the excuse of inflation. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 17.3.23

(4) Marta Strinati. Exaggerated profits, Greece fines Unilever and Procter & Gamble. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 12.1.23

(5) Marta Strinati. Consumers against shrinkflation and other hidden price increases. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 15.9.22

(6) Dario Dongo. Unfair commercial practices, it is directive. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 20.12.18

(7) Dario Dongo. Unfair commercial practices, the EU directive 2019/633. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 4.5.19

(8) Dario Dongo, Giulia Orsi. Unfair commercial practices, the lesson from Paris to Coldiretti and Confindustria. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 9.5.21

(9) Dario Dongo. Unfair commercial practices, the woes of Legislative Decree 198/2021. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 4.12.21

(10) Dario Dongo. Unfair commercial practices in the food supply chain, the protections that are lacking. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 26.4.21

(11) Dario Dongo. Unfair commercial practices, green light for below cost sales. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 27.10.21

(12) Dario Dongo. Promotional sales, poor protection of producers and consumers. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 24.5.22

(13) Giuseppe Masala, Dario Dongo. MES emergency and state-devouring fund. Égalité. 16.3.20

(14) Andreas Rinke, Miranda Murray. Nationwide German farmer blockades heap pressure on Scholz. Reuters. 8.1.24 http://tinyurl.com/5cw7m9es

(15) Meloni hears Scholz, focus on military and financial aid to Kiev. HANDLE. 9.1.24 http://tinyurl.com/4dw6vxf7

(16) Dario Dongo. An electronic commodity exchange to promote transparency and fairness in the food supply chain. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 8.3.21

(17) An example above all is Filiera Italia, the creation of Coldiretti in which the leaders of the brand industry and the first large-scale retail trade group in Italy are members. President, MEP Paolo De Castro (rapporteur, among other things, of the directive on unfair commercial practices). See Filiera Italia, the members https://www.filieraitalia.it/soci/

(18) Dario Dongo. Unfair commercial practices, double-discount supply chain agreement. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 7.3.21

(19) Dario Dongo. NGTs, new GMOs. Scientists and ANSES expose the risks of deregulation. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 23.12.23

(20) Dario Dongo. No to reducing pesticides, yes to glyphosate. ToxicEurope. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 23.11.23

Related Articles

Latest Articles

Recent Commenti

Translate »