You are here

astroturf groups

Are Climate Activists Screwing European Farmers?!?

Farmer Protests: The Wrong U-Turn

By Angela Hilmi and Emile Frison - Green European Journal, March 25, 2024

While farming and nature are inextricably bound together, political bargaining often sets the two in opposition. Recent protests across Europe and worldwide show growing frustration among farmers. The European Commission is responding with row-backs on environmental standards. Could farmers be brought back onside with a Common Agricultural Policy U-turn on trade?

Imagine a job where you never get a day off. Where your work, providing an essential public service, requires you to take on hundreds of thousands of euros in debt over decades. Where you never know how much you’ll get for what you sell. Where mainstream media either ignores or vilifies you. Where your health is at risk from prevailing practices. Where you don’t earn enough to retire with a pension. Where, once you do retire, no new generation is willing to take up the reins because the quality of life is considered low. Welcome to today’s farming in Europe. And not just in Europe but worldwide. 

It’s not hard to see why recent weeks have witnessed waves of European farmers’ protests from Brussels to Madrid and Warsaw. Headlines have been filled with images of tractors blocking motorways and city centres, slurry dumped at supermarkets, police being sprayed with manure and pelted with eggs. Farmers are vociferously raising their voices demanding dignity, support for their livelihoods, viability of small farms, a future: “No farmers, no food!”

In Brussels, many of those on the streets have been demonstrating against the free trade agreements that undercut their prices and livelihoods. In Poland, Germany, and Romania, farmers are rejecting the influx of cheap Ukrainian grain and its impact on their livelihoods. In India, farmers are once again out on the streets, resisting the latest attempts to dismantle commodity price support policies, without which their already-strained livelihoods will be even further devalued.

These protests are not isolated incidents but rather a global expression of frustration and disillusionment with a system that prioritises profit and global competition over people. They are stirring up important debates about regulation, fair prices, trade agreements, and the future of our food. In Europe, the negotiations for a deal with the Mercosur trade bloc loom large, threatening to undercut local producers and exacerbate the challenges they face. 

Yet, as these protests unfold, panic-stricken politicians – in the heat of a “mega” election year – seem more inclined to throw environmental protection under the bus than address the legitimate grievances of those who feed us. The European Commission has already unscrupulously junked plans to cut pesticide use, scrapped a strategy on sustainable food systems, and loosened environmental and labour requirements that farmers must respect to access farming subsidies under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

Farmers’ protests in Europe and the deadend of neoliberalism

By Morgan Ody and Vincent Delobel - La Via Campesina, March 1, 2024

Below is an excerpt from an opinion piece by Morgan Ody and Vincent Delobel of La Via Campesina, which was published on Al Jazeera on February 25th.

These are people who produce Europe’s food – whether conventionally or organically, on a small or a medium scale. They stand united by a shared reality: They are fed up with spending their lives working incessantly without ever getting a decent income.

We have reached this point after decades of neoliberal agricultural policies and free trade agreements. Production costs have risen steadily in recent years, while prices paid to farmers have stagnated or even fallen.

Faced with this situation, farmers have pursued various economic strategies. Some have tried to increase production to compensate for the fall in prices: They have bought more land, invested in machinery, taken on a lot of debt and seen their workload increase significantly. The stress and declining incomes have created a great deal of frustration.

Other farmers have sought better prices for their produce by turning to organic farming and short distribution channels. But for many, these markets collapsed after the COVID-19 pandemic.

All the while, through mergers and speculation, large agroindustrial groups have gotten bigger and stronger, putting increased pressure on prices and practices for farmers.

ECVC has actively taken part in the mobilisations of farmers in Europe. Our members have also been hit hard by dwindling incomes, the stress linked to high levels of debt, and the excessive workload. We clearly see that the European Union’s embrace of WTO-promoted policies of deregulation of agricultural markets in favour of big agribusiness and the destructive international competition are directly responsible for our plight.

Since the 1980s, various regulations that ensured fair prices for European farmers have been dismantled. The EU put all its faith in free trade agreements, which placed all the world’s farmers in competition with each other, encouraging them to produce at the lowest possible price at the cost of their own incomes and growing debt.

In recent years, however, the EU has announced its intention to move towards a more sustainable agricultural model, notably with the Farm to Fork Strategy, which is the agricultural component of the Green Deal.

Farmers’ organisations welcomed this ambition, but we also stressed that the sustainability of European agriculture could not be improved without breaking away from the logic of international competitiveness. Producing ecologically has huge benefits for the health and the planet, but it costs more for the farmers, and so to achieve the agroecological transition, agricultural markets need to be protected. Unfortunately, we were not heard.

An adequate answer to the farmer’s protest: fair prices through strengthening the UTP directive

By Morgan Ody, Andoni Garcia Arriola, Vitor Rodrigues - EuroVia, February 26, 2024

ECVC demands an obligation at the EU level to ensure prices paid to farmers cover the costs of production, including a decent income for the work of farmers and agricultural workers and their social security contributions.

In recent months farmers protests have blocked cities all over Europe. ECVC firmly believes that the Spanish translation of the EU Unfair Trade Practice (UTP) directive is a good way forward to reply to the demand unifying most of the protests: fair prices for farmers’ products. While some other national translation may be interesting, it is only in Spain that this law has been effective and actually made a difference in the price of the farmers: it actually obliges each link of the food chain to cover its production costs, starting with producers. Some key features are developed here, which should be taken up at the EU level of the directive in order to strengthen it.

Through the law, producers have the right to anonymously report anyone who purchases their produce at a price below their production costs, which they self-determine for their products on a case-by-case basis. Thus, purchase of produce at a loss can be punished with a fine of €3,000 to €100,000. It is important to have truly dissuasive fines. Repeat offenders can be fined at a higher rate, from €100,000 to €1 million euros. During the first quarter of 2023, the Spanish government announced that 55 companies had been sanctioned[1] .

An instrument, created by COAG – one of the Spanish member organisations of ECVC and La Via Campesina - in 2008, together with two consumer associations, has been very important in giving transparency to the market:

- The Origin-Destination Price Index (Indice de precios origen-destino - IPOD) publishes an index every month to denounce the abuse of power and the imposition of prices below production costs by industry and distribution. This index started off back in 2008 as an initiative of farmers and consumer organisations, and it illustrated the difference between prices paid to farmers and by consumers. This amounted to more than 500%, indicating that the greatest beneficiaries of market deregulation have been the strongest operators (generally large-scale distribution) and the most disadvantaged were farmers and consumers, for whom prices at source are very low and yet consumers pay a much higher price than they would have to in a regulated market situation.

The core of the law are the two following functional instruments:

- First, the Food Information and Control Agency (FICA) which is the legal body of control, dedicated to collecting anonymously complaints and sanction from farmers, farming organisations, cooperatives and other entities in the chain. It also has its own capacity to carry out ex officio inspections of compliance and execution of contracts, on price abuses, lack of agricultural contracts, failure to meet payment deadlines and other abusive practices. It publishes the sanctions when they are final.

- The Chain Observatory, which is responsible for carrying out price and cost studies along the value chain of each agricultural and animal production. These studies are important as they are part of the possible references for farmers when they negotiate contracts. It also has to publish studies of costs, evolution of consumption and evolution of food prices.

Another key element is that in Spain, contracts – which are obligatory - must be deposited in an official register so that no changes can be made once complaints have been articulated.

The EU should include this high level of public control and price transparency. It should also pay attention to the following elements:
- Prices by law must cover production costs in each link of the chain, starting with the farmer and the cost must include a decent income for farmers and all agricultural workers.
- Selling at a loss is prohibited.
- Farmers must be paid in a maximum of 30 days when they sell a perishable product and 60 days if products are processed.
- Sanctions must be significant if the above points are not complied with.
- Price observatories at national and European levels must provide net margin levels by brand and manufacturer.
- There must be transparency on commercial negotiation conditions.

Finally, this law will not be completely effective without addressing international trade, removing the WTO from agriculture and stopping free trade agreements. A new trade framework based on food sovereignty should be implemented to enable the relocation of agricultural production and prevent national production from competing with imports that maintain low prices. Furthermore these free trade agreements deepen the climate and biodiversity crises and damage food systems in Europe and the rest of the world.

The European Union adopted it last revision of the Directive on Unfair Trading Practices (UTP) in the agricultural and food supply chain in April 2019[2]. The Directive bans certain „Unfair Trading Practices“ imposed unilaterally by one trading partner on another at the EU level in the agricultural and food supply chain. However, even though the directive is a step in the right direction, it does not go so far as to legally cover production costs. As seen in the farmers protest the national implementations did so far not improve the barging power of farmers. Hence ECVC is calling the EU commission to strengthen the directive at EU level and a national implementation based on the chain law in Spain.

A perfect storm… tractor demos across Europe raise issues

By Lois Ross - Rabble, February 16, 2024

It has not been making the mainstream news in Canada, but across Europe farmers are gathering in major cities with their tractors, blocking roads and encircling major cities, protesting a host of national and international issues.

It is complicated, because these protests are not based on a single issue, but rather an entire host of agricultural and trade policies, coupled in some cases with the impact of war, new and pending trade deals, cheaper imported foods, climate change regulations, inflation, and increased costs of production topped by increasingly diminishing returns for farmers.

Across the European Union – from the Netherlands, through Belgium, Germany, France, Spain, Italy and into Poland and Romania, farmers are visibly confronting a food system that they feel has turned on them.

Issues cited by farmers are cheap food imports, in others rising production costs and decreasing margins for the farm. Drought, along with policies that would increase farm concentration and escalate the loss of farm livelihoods, also have been cited.

In many ways it is a perfect storm — and one that has been a long-time in the making. Some of the same issues leading European Union farmers to protest are bubbling to the surface here in Canada.

It is hard to find detailed information on the tensions surfacing in each country, but the general malaise has been described in a recent article by The Guardian:

“Farmers have said they face falling sale prices, rising costs, heavy regulation, powerful and domineering retailers, debt, climate change and cheap foreign imports, all within an EU agricultural system based on the premise that ‘bigger is better’.”

Treaties and Tractors: The protests in Europe against free trade agreements, WTO at the root of it all

By Yago Álvarez Barba - La Via Campesina, February 15, 2024

Peasant organizations demand that free trade agreements that have been opening the doors to unfair competition for years be halted, which materialize in their current problems.

Tractors continue to block the roads, new mobilizations are announced, and the problems that the agricultural sector has put on the table are beginning to dominate the center of political debate and media attention. Among the demands of one side and the other, and among those that the far right wants to co-opt and exploit for its own benefit, there is one that is a well-known issue among many activists and social organizations that did not necessarily have to be part of the agricultural sector: free trade treaties.

As one of their main demands, the three farmers’ associations – Asociación Agraria de Jóvenes Agricultores (ASAJA), Coordinadora de Organizaciones de Agricultores y Ganaderos (COAG) and the Unión de Pequeños Agricultores y Ganaderos (UPA) – have demanded that negotiations for one of the major agreements on the table, the Mercosur agreement with the European Union, be completely halted. This agreement would eliminate barriers and further open trade with Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay. They also demand the “non-ratification of the agreement with New Zealand,” which is pending its final ratification by the Parliament of New Zealand and, according to COAG, “opens the door to the importation of meat and milk from the other side of the planet.” Additionally, they also demand that “negotiations with Chile, Kenya, Mexico, India, and Australia” be halted, all of which have been signed by the EU in recent years.

These proclamations are not new, even if it’s when farmers have paralyzed the roads that they have jumped into public debate. Social movements and campaigns against free trade agreements have been warning for years that these trade agreements would have devastating consequences for agriculture, livestock, economies based on these sectors, the planet, and our own bodies. The campaign against the free trade agreement(FTA) between the European Union (EU) and the United States, known as the TTIP, was the focal point of hundreds of social movements, farmers, ranchers, and environmental and human rights defenders across Europe. That FTA was frozen after Trump’s victory, but others like the agreement with Canada, the CETA, and those signed in the following years are now being demanded by farmers’ organizations to be halted and renegotiated. From those free trade agreements, these protests.

Revealed: The Climate Denial Network Behind ‘Classic Astroturf’ Farmers’ Campaign

By Clare Carlile, Adam Barnett and Phoebe Cooke - DeSmog, February 8, 2024

Producers say ‘No Farmers, No Food’ is a populist initiative that serves to “whip up indignation and anger”.

Producers say ‘No Farmers, No Food’ is a populist initiative that serves to “whip up indignation and anger”.

A network of climate science deniers has been accused of “hijacking” rural concerns over a new social media campaign “to save the farming industry”. 

‘No Farmers, No Food’ has gained over 50,000 followers on X in the fortnight since its launch, which was framed as a response to the widespread farmers’ protests sweeping across Europe.

The campaign, which started in the UK, has rapidly won support from a number of international pundits, from Canadian climate science denier Jordan Peterson, to Fox News contributor and host Tomi Lahren, who has called climate change a “hoax”. Populist politicians in the UK and elsewhere have also declared their support. 

Conspiracy theorists have jumped to support the social media account, which has boosted false claims about people being forced by the World Economic Forum to “eat bugs”.

The campaign has expressed scepticism around climate targets, claiming that “Farming is being sacrificed on the altar of net zero.”

Sporting a distinctive black and yellow tractor logo, the campaign’s hashtag trended on X a week after its launch on 23 January. Its founder James Melville told DeSmog that the campaign, which claims to represent the voices of farmers, plans to target national and local legislation on issues like pricing and food security as well as “aspects of net zero”.

James Melville is a PR consultant who has appeared as an anti-lockdown campaigner on right-wing broadcaster TalkTV and a farming commentator on GB News. A former journalist who grew up on a livestock and arable farm, he said he started the campaign to put “pressure on governments to help farmers … and shape the messages that will build public support”. 

“I think it’s time for a national debate on climate and net zero,” Melville told DeSmog. The campaign is due to launch a new mission statement in the coming days.

Scientific consensus on human-caused climate change is equivalent to that on evolution

The UK’s legally binding target to cut greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050 is part of an international effort to limit global warming to 1.5 C. Food production accounts for around a quarter of global emissions. 

But while Melville’s campaign claims to speak for farmers, arable and livestock farmer Joe Stanley says the initiative does not represent his industry.

“There is massive discontent in the farming community,” he said. “But this does not seem to be a farmer-generated movement.”

“Populism whips up indignation and anger,” Stanley added. “That is what ‘No Farmers, No Food’ is doing, clearly with the hope of creating a wider movement as we’ve seen in Ireland and Holland.”

Journalist Peter Geoghegan, author of ‘Democracy for Sale: Dark Money and Dirty Politics’, said that ‘No Farmers, No Food’ had “all the hallmarks of a classic astroturf campaign” – a supposedly ‘grassroots’ campaign that provides a front for political or commercial interests. 

“As we can see here you don’t need any grassroots support to be able to push an agenda straight into the media and the political system,” he said.

James Melville denied that the campaign was a front for political interests, adding that ‘No Farmers, No Food’ was “non-partisan”. “I welcome all sides of the debate,” he said.

Against the Wind: A Map of the Anti-Offshore Wind Network in the Eastern United States

By Isaac Slevin, William Kattrup, and Timmons Roberts - Brown University Climate and Development Lab, December 12, 2023

This document provides an unparalleled window into how fossil fuel interests are working with climate denial think tanks and community groups to obstruct offshore wind projects.

These community groups have made national headlines for their opposition to projects in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. They appear to be new organizations that operate organically and independently, but they often share legal support, personnel, talking points, and financial resources with major organizations that have been blocking climate policy for the last several decades. Knowingly or not, they are executing a strategy laid out for them by climate obstructionists in 2012.

We show how think tanks in the anti-offshore wind movement have received donations from six fossil fuel-interested donors between 2017 and 2021. Of these donations, $16,278,401 has gone to members of a grassroots-appearing coalition at the center of the movement.

As public relations and obstruction specialists actively engage local groups to block offshore wind projects, the climate and environmental justice consequences are dire. Offshore wind projects may struggle to get off the ground, locking us into catastrophic climate consequences experienced disproportionately by Black, Indigenous, Latine, and low-income communities.

Disclaimer: This report represents an initial phase of research about the network of opposition to offshore wind development, produced by a team of undergraduate students in Brown University’s Climate and Development Lab. The statements, views, opinions, and information contained in the report are personal to the authors, and do not necessarily reflect those of Brown University.

Download a copy of this publication here (PDF).

Richmond Progressive Alliance Listening Project, Episode 7: Buying Us Out

Richmond Progressive Alliance Listening Project, Episode 5: Asthma Club


The Fine Print I:

Disclaimer: The views expressed on this site are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) unless otherwise indicated and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s, nor should it be assumed that any of these authors automatically support the IWW or endorse any of its positions.

Further: the inclusion of a link on our site (other than the link to the main IWW site) does not imply endorsement by or an alliance with the IWW. These sites have been chosen by our members due to their perceived relevance to the IWW EUC and are included here for informational purposes only. If you have any suggestions or comments on any of the links included (or not included) above, please contact us.

The Fine Print II:

Fair Use Notice: The material on this site is provided for educational and informational purposes. It may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. It is being made available in an effort to advance the understanding of scientific, environmental, economic, social justice and human rights issues etc.

It is believed that this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have an interest in using the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. The information on this site does not constitute legal or technical advice.