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Analysis: How do the EU farmer protests relate to climate change?

By Orla Dwyer - The Conversation, February 5, 2024

From Berlin and Paris, to Brussels and Bucharest, European farmers have driven their tractors to the streets in protest over recent weeks. 

According to reports, these agricultural protesters from across the European Union have a series of concerns, including competition from cheaper imports, rising costs of energy and fertiliser, and environmental rules. 

Farmers’ groups in countries including Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Lithuania, Poland and Romania have all been protesting over the past couple of months. 

The UK’s Sunday Telegraph has tried to frame the protests as a “net-zero revolt” with several other media outlets saying the farmers have been rallying against climate or “green” rules. 

Carbon Brief has analysed the key demands from farmer groups in seven countries to determine how they are related to greenhouse gas emissions, climate change, biodiversity or conservation. 

The findings show that many of the issues farmers are raising are directly and indirectly related to these issues. But some are not related at all. Several are based on policy measures that have not yet taken effect, such as the EU’s nature restoration law and a South American trade agreement. 

No Food Without Farmers, No Farmers Without Nature

By Enrico Somaglia - Green European Journal, February 13, 2024

With farmers taking to the streets and making headlines all over Europe, national governments and EU institutions are rushing to make concessions to appease them. But are the solutions offered what farmers and agricultural workers really need? We asked Enrico Somaglia, deputy general secretary of the European Federation of Food, Agriculture, and Tourism Trade Unions (EFFAT).

Green European Journal: Is there a common thread among the farmers’ protests happening across Europe?

Enrico Somaglia: The protests are linked to different national circumstances, such as overregulation, subsidy cuts, or imports of Ukrainian grain to the EU. But there is definitely a frustration towards a common enemy, the European Union, the Green Deal and its Farm To Fork strategy. Of course, not every farmer sees them as enemies: the agriculture sector is very heterogeneous. Small and big farmers are organised in different ways, they have different representatives. A minority within the sector opposes any kind of green policies because it is resistant to change. As trade unions, we firmly reject this stance.

On the other hand, a significant part of the farmers are against the Green Deal because they perceive it as something that has been unilaterally imposed on them. Fortunately, there is still room to improve green policies to make sure they are more socially acceptable. Trade unions see this as the way forward to build a different agriculture sector which is not only more sustainable from an environmental point of view, but is also a better place to work. To achieve that, we need measures for a truly just transition. We should not forget that if the condition of farmers is challenging, that of agricultural workers is simply unbearable. A vast proportion of seasonal workers, migrant workers, and daily labourers still face unrecorded working hours, appalling housing situations, and exploitative working relationships. The green transition can be an opportunity to create better jobs, but it needs to be stronger on the social side.

That Time When Radical Black and White Southern Farmers Fought the KKK & Government Together

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.

Are Europe’s Farmers Protesting Green Reforms? It’s Complicated

Images and Words by Rachel Sherrington - DeSmog, February 7, 2024

Across France, Italy and Belgium last week thousands of farmers descended on capital cities to express their deep discontent with the European food system.

The scenes were dramatic. Parked tractors brought traffic to a standstill in Paris, and on Thursday burning piles of hay and debris sent up huge, dark plumes of smoke in Brussels. The protests show no sign of slowing down and are expected this week across Italy, Slovenia and Spain.

Farmers’ demonstrations have been portrayed as a revolt against net zero, by the media and far-right groups.

This is the message received by governments – and they are acting on it. So far, the farmers have won key concessions, with the EU decision on Tuesday to drop its plans to cut pesticide use, hot on the heels of the same move by France on Friday, despite numbers of birds and pollinators plummeting in Europe.

Yet the reality on the ground in Brussels last week was more mixed. While Europe’s largest farming union, Copa-Cogeca, paints environmental measures as an enemy to farmers’ prosperity, an analysis by Carbon Brief has found that a fifth of farmer concerns were not on green issues, relating instead to high production costs, food pricing and trade-related concerns.

Other groups of farmers came out onto the streets of Brussels with a different message. They say the EU should see the protests as a sign to do more, not less, to protect the environment.

“We are very clear that as farmers we want to take action to struggle against the climate crisis,” said Morgan Ody, a farmer from Brittany who belongs to the European chapter of La Via Campesina (ECVC).

Ody travelled to Belgium with over a thousand farmers connected to Via Campesina – and other allied national smallholder farmer groups from Belgium, France, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands and Germany – to protest last Thursday.

Via Campesina and its smallholder allies also insist that ambitious action to address climate breakdown and biodiversity loss must go hand in hand with tackling other farmer concerns – such as low pay. Difficult working conditions, they say, are also at the root of the frustrations of many who showed up to demonstrate.

Rejection of free trade agreements and the demand for a decent income at the heart of farmers’ mobilizations in Europe

By European Coordination Via Campesina (ECVC) - La Via Campesina, January 25, 2024

In Germany, France, Poland, Romania, Belgium and beyond, we are seeing increasing numbers of farmers taking to the streets. Low incomes and a lack of future prospects for the vast majority of farmers is at the root of this discontent, which is largely linked to the neo-liberal policies the European Union has pursued for decades. ECVC is calling for these protests to be taken seriously and for a change in the direction of European agricultural and food policies: it is time to put an end to Free Trade Agreements and resolutely set out on the road to food sovereignty.

Huge numbers of farmers have been taking action across different European countries in recent weeks. Many farmers are struggling under the pressure of neoliberal policies that prevent fair prices. Debt and work overload are skyrocketing, while farm incomes are plummeting.

European farmers need real answers to their problems, not smoke and mirrors. We demand an immediate end to negotiations on the FTA with MERCOSUR countries and a moratorium on all other FTAs currently being negotiated. We demand the effective application of the Unfair Trading Prices (UTP) directive and a ban on selling below production costs at European level, following the example of Spain. Prices paid to farmers must cover production costs and ensure a decent income. Our incomes depend on agricultural prices, and it is unacceptable that these should be subject to financial speculation.

We therefore call for agricultural policies based on market regulation, with prices that cover production costs and public stocks. We call for sufficient budget to allow CAP subsidies to be redistributed to support the transition to an agricultural model capable of meeting the challenges of the climate and biodiversity crises. All farmers who already practice environmentally-friendly farming practices and all those who decide to embark on an agroecological, more sustainable transition process must be supported and accompanied in the long term. It is unacceptable that under the current CAP, a minority of very large farms receive hundreds of thousands of euros in public aid while the majority of European farmers receive little to no aid at all.

ECVC is concerned to see attempts from the far right to exploit and use this anger and the mobilisations to drive its own agenda, including denying climate change, calling for lower environmental standards and blaming migrant workers in rural areas, all of which has nothing to do with farmers’ interests nor improves their future prospects. On the contrary, denying the realities of the climate crisis risks trapping farmers in a succession of increasingly intense disasters, from heatwaves and droughts to floods and storms. We need to take action, and we farmers are ready to make the necessary changes to tackle environmental, climate and food problems but this will not be possible as long as we are forced to produce at low prices in a globalised and deregulated market. Similarly, migrant workers today play a fundamental role both in agricultural production and in the agri-food industry: without these workers, we would be short of labour forces in Europe to produce and process food. The rights of agricultural workers must be fully respected.

ECVC is calling on political decision-makers at European level to act quickly to respond to the anger and concerns of farmers. We need a real change in agricultural policy that puts farmers at the heart of policy-making and gives us prospects for the future. ECVC proposes real solutions to this crisis, described in our Manifesto for agricultural transition in the face of systemic climate crises.

Dying in the Fields as Temperatures Soar

By Liza Gross and Peter Aldhous - Inside Climate News, December 31, 2023

Scores of California farmworkers are dying in the heat in regions with chronically bad air, even in a state with one of the toughest heat standards in the nation.

For most of July 2019, stifling heat hung over the agricultural fields of California’s Central Valley, as farmworkers like William Salas Jiminez labored under the sun’s searing rays. Temperatures had dipped from 99 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit the last day of the month, when the 56-year-old Puerto Rico native was installing irrigation tubing in an almond orchard near Arvin, at the valley’s southern edge. 

Around 1:30 that afternoon Salas sat down to rest. When he stood up to go back to work, he suddenly collapsed. An hour and a half later, he was dead. Reports filed with the U.S. Department of Occupational Health and Safety, or OSHA, say Salas died of a heart attack.

Salas’ death certificate lists atherosclerotic heart disease as the immediate cause of death. But it also lists “extreme heat exposure” and obesity as significant contributors. Both heart disease and obesity increase the risk of fatal heatstroke.

Declaration of the 1st International Meeting of Diversities and Supporters

By staff - La Via Campesina, December 18, 2023

From the 1st Meeting of Diversities in the 8th Conference of La Via Campesina, we, LVC peasants who identify ourselves as sexually and gender diverse, and our allies, want to celebrate the creation of this space. Here, we meet to exchange ideas, debate and reflect on a reality that drives us, as an international organization, to continue transforming the ways we relate to one another in order to end all the discrimination, prejudice and all forms of violence that gender non-conforming people experience.

We are certain that a new society free of all oppression on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity, diverse abilities and class will only be possible when all the people who make up La Via Campesina can treat each other with respect, guaranteeing basic human rights, peasant rights, as well as the rights that have been historically denied to sexually and gender diverse persons and that aim at creating emancipated human relations.

We celebrate the diversity in our soil, waters, forests, farms, and territories. We celebrate our communities’ social and cultural diversity because it builds strength and resilience. As people who embody these diversities, we do not ask to be tolerated; this is not about pity or charity. This is about knowing that a socially diverse movement for agroecology and food sovereignty is a stronger movement and that the liberation of everyone is intertwined with the liberation of our societies.

Declaration of Solidarity and Commitment to the rights of Migrants and Refugees around the world

By staff - La Via Campesina, December 18, 2023

#18D23 On the International Day of Migrants and Refugees, La Via Campesina calls on states to ratify and implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Migrants and their Families. LVC rejects the proposed EU agreement on migration and proposes a Global Solidarity Pact for the rights of migrants and refugees.

The situation of millions of migrant people and families around the world continues to worsen. Every day, the grabbing and plundering of resources and the destruction of local economies, mainly by transnational economic powers, in addition to wars, terrorism, and environmental and climate disasters, are increasing. All of this is made worse by global capitalism and colonialism, forcing people from their territories. Authoritarian governments and international institutions are complicit, putting in place a regulatory and military structure that stigmatizes, represses, and murders those who decide to migrate at the borders. Once they reach their destination, these people (many of whom are in the agricultural sector) suffer exploitation, discrimination, and racism. In economies that take advantage of migrant labor, such as Europe or the United States, and in countries through which migration passes, the segregation and oppression these people face are made worse by policies of hate and violence against the most vulnerable. This is promoted by the extreme right and fascism, playing into the political and economic power of those who already own our planet.

La Via Campesina includes many organizations of migrants and rural waged workers. The movement continues to demand the recognition and support of both the peasants who remain and fight in their territories and those who decide to migrate to improve their lives and their communities.

Peasant Youth Unveils Vision: 5th International Youth Assembly Declaration

By staff - La Via Campesina, December 16, 2023

We have on this land all of that which makes life worth living
On this land
The lady of our land
The mother of all beginnings
And the mother of all ends
She was called Palestine

Mahmoud Darwish

We, the young peasants, convened our 5th International Assembly of the Youth Articulation of La Vía Campesina in Bogotá, Colombia, on December 1, 2023. We started our gathering by centering our sense of belonging to the land that we come from. We reaffirmed our solidarity and shared all of our love with the people of Palestine and their longstanding struggle for liberation, especially in the current context of blatant genocide, violent occupation, and the siege of Gaza by Israel. We commit to continue amplifying the message of their struggles with our communities and the general public and engage in direct and ongoing actions in support of the Palestinian people.

We gathered to address and contemplate the profound crises gripping global agriculture and food systems while sharpening our strategies, actions and solutions . We engaged in vital discussions, sharing experiences and wisdom of our people, focusing on four critical themes: the crisis of generational continuity in agriculture, climate justice and agroecology, a critical analysis of new digital technologies, and the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and other People working in Rural Areas from a youth perspective.

Committed to advancing collective visions and proposals rooted in solidarity, internationalism, and systemic transformation, we presented our consolidated ideas at the 8th Conference of La Via Campesina. Consequently, our 5th International Youth Assembly was a landmark event to reinvigorate our strategies and commitment to the movement. As we transition from one International Coordination Committee (ICC) youth member per continent to one ICC youth member per region we further strengthen and expand our active participation with commitment to inclusivity, balance, diversity and intergenerational exchange thus strengthening our work within and from our regions thus strengthening our work within and from our regions.


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