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Protesting farmers serve EU election voters with food for thought

Will Denselow in Brussels


Farmers across Europe are serving voters with plenty of food for thought this election season.

‌Increasingly frustrated with the European Union's environmental policies, many have turned to right-wing political groups for support. They hope a new field of candidates can play to their advantage.

For farmers like Omgo Nieweg, the relationship with the EU has turned sour. "It's costing more money, it's costing a lot of energy as a human, you never know if you do it well," he tells CGTN.

Nieweg's farm has been in his family for generations. Currently he's got about 190 dairy cows and over 130 young cattle on roughly 1.2 square kilometers of grassland and he says he's committed to nature inclusive practices.

Roughly a third of the EU's budget goes to the agricultural sector - but instead of milking that cashflow, he says he's feeling the pinch of regulations. He believes EU policy on nitrogen pollution has tied red tape around his ability to secure financing.

"I can't do nothing at the moment - there's no bank who wants to finance you," he says. "So if you want more grounds on your farm to go extensive or nature inclusive, then you need a bank but the bank says no."


Concerns across Europe

Across Europe, it's a shared frustration for many working in agriculture. Jos Ubels is pushing to see a new crop of lawmakers take root. He is part of the Farmers Defense Force (FDF), a group which says the EU's Green Deal as well as fertilizer and water regulations have made the past five years "hell for farmers."

Ubels says he's not opposed to environmental protection policies, but believes the ones currently in place are neither practical nor effective. 

"If the climate changes only four or five percent, all farmers will go bankrupt but we have to be fair," he says. "There is no logic and there's no profit for the environment."

‌The FDF is among the groups that have been staging protests in Brussels over recent months calling for change ahead of the election. Protestors gathered in the city again on Tuesday, demanding action from the EU.


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Over recent weeks, the bloc has provided some concessions under its Common Agricultural Policy. It's an EU framework that seeks to protect the income of farmers and ensure a stable supply of food while also providing measures that address environmental concerns.

"We have tried to strike the right balance between offering farmers a greater degree of flexibility in how they meet certain climate and environmental goals while at the same time maintaining a high level of overall climate and environmental ambition in the current CAP," said Olof Gill, the European Commission Spokesperson for Trade and Agriculture.

‌The FarmerCitizenMovement - or BBB - performed impressively in the recent Dutch elections and will join the center-right European People's Party group in the European Parliament. Many farmers hope to now feed off that momentum when voters across Europe head to the polls and hope to win a larger voice at the legislative table.

Protesting farmers serve EU election voters with food for thought

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