Over 10,000 farmers from all over Germany drove more than 5,000 tractors in a 6-mile-long convoy crawling through the streets of Berlin Nov. 26 to protest government plans to sharply restrict the use of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizer. Farmers also protested in France and Ireland.
In response to regulations and fines imposed by the European Commission, Germany’s capitalist rulers plan to phase out and ban the weedkiller glyphosate by 2023 and tighten regulations on the use of fertilizers, supposedly to reduce nitrate content in groundwater. The government also charges the chemical is reducing the number of butterflies and bees. Glyphosate, an active ingredient in weed-control products like Roundup, is used by many farmers worldwide to boost production. These products have been the target of lawsuits and challenges by environmental reformers, profit-driven attorneys and radical middle-class currents.
Banners on some of the tractors read, “No farmers, no food, no future” and “We fill you up.” One large sign described in English the dictionary definition of “farming” as “The art of losing money while working 400 hours a month to feed people, who think you are trying to kill them.”
Another banner said, “7.5 billion people — 200 million can feed themselves as hunters and gatherers. The rest need farmers.”
The German government restrictions come on top of a deepening economic crisis facing farmers worldwide. They are squeezed by capitalist monopolies controlling inputs like seed and fertilizer as well as processing and distribution, and by falling prices.
“Enough is enough,” farmer Benjamin Meise from the Oderland region of Brandenburg, told Euractiv. “We farmers see more and more requirements and less and less money.”
A farmer from Bavaria at the Berlin protest told Deutsche Welle, “When we’re supposed to reduce the use of fertilizers by 20% as the government wants us to, it means that our plants get 20% less nutrients every year, and that will have a corresponding impact on our yields and our incomes.”
The protest was attacked by the Green Party. “Doing even less for nature’s conservation and spreading even more fertilizer,” party leader Anton Hofrieter told Euractiv. “That’s not the right answer.”
On Nov. 27, some 1,000 farmers from across France drove their tractors in rolling roadblocks in Paris against growing restrictions on farmers. The same day Irish farmers ended their two-day tractor blockade of the center of Dublin.