French farmers blockade Paris in heated protest

paris farmer siege ap

French farmers blockaded Paris on Monday, cutting off the capital city from outside connections with tractors and barricades, in a protest over agricultural reforms that the farmers say do no go far enough.

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, still in the first month of his job, attempted to temper the protesters with reforms last week, including measures to make food production easier and more lucrative.

The farmers implemented a “siege” on Monday in an attempt to urge further concessions.

“We’ve come to defend French agriculture,” farmer Christophe Rossignol told The Associated Press. “We go from crisis to crisis.”

Some vehicles in the protest carried placards declaring “No food without farmers” and “The end of us would mean famine for you.”

Protesters said they felt left behind by the urban national government, and that many politicians don’t take the needs of rural Frenchmen seriously.

About 15,000 police were deployed around Paris to keep the city itself safe, the government said. 

“Our goal isn’t to bother or to ruin French people’s lives,” Arnaud Rousseau, president of the FNSEA agricultural union, said on RTL radio. “Our goal is to put pressure on the government to rapidly find solutions out of the crisis.”

Farmers in Wallonia, the French-speaking region of southern Belgium, launched a similar protest near Brussels in solidarity. 

The French and Belgian protesters complained of rising fertilizer and operations costs due to the war in Ukraine, which has waged for nearly two years. Ukraine was one of the world’s largest food producers before the war.

The French farmers also demanded deregulation, arguing that the government has strangled its domestic agriculture to an extent that it can not compete with mostly Eastern European rivals.

Farmers have taken to the motorways of multiple European countries in recent months, as agricultural policy takes a center stage in the continent’s political discussions. Last month, German protesters took their tractors to Berlin over diesel fuel price demands.

The Associated Press contributed.

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