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The great European farmers revolt: Jilted, turning on the greens

Via Net Zero Watch:

Tilak Doshi: The great European farmers revolt: Jilted, turning on the greens
Forbes, 26 February 2024

Can European farmers reverse their ruling elites’ mantra of “net zero by 2050” and devotion to global climate leadership? Or will this just be merely a temporary stalling of the green agenda, a tactical concession by liberal politicians and Brussels-based bureaucrats to farmers’ demands for relief from ever-tightening EU environmental restrictions? Only time will tell but hope remains that the Great Farmer Revolt will bring some semblance of rationality to Europe’s climate policies.

Coming to a crescendo over the past few months, widespread farmers’ protests in Europe have escalated – across the width and breadth of the continent, from Sweden to Spain, Poland to Portugal — since they first started in the Netherlands Holland in October 2019. As tractors take over the streets and highways in wave after wave of protests, the farmers have paralyzed major transport arteries and besieged Berlin, Paris and Brussels.

More lastingly, they have changed the political landscape in key EU countries such asNetherlands.With the shock win in March by the populist Farmer-Citizen Movement (BBB), putting it ahead of the governing party in the Senate, the farmers became an important part of the equation in the country’s political future. Major gains are expected for what the legacy media calls the “far right” and “anti-Europe” parties in the upcoming European parliament elections. The farming interest has suddenly climbed to the top of the political agenda in state capitals as well as Brussels.

What happened?

Why have European farmers – until recently, the most coddled and protected part of the continent’s body politic as it emerged from the ashes of World War II — turned against their own governments and Brussels-based benefactors? Is it no more than a “tantrum of the ridiculously privileged?”, asks The Economist.

Europe’s Farmers Betrayed

The picture of the proud French farmer – half of whose income came from EU subsidies and direct payments — as the repository of a bucolic wine-and-cheese rural culture has long been a treasured part of Europe’s identity since it adopted the Common Agricultural Policy in 1962. Agriculture (including forestry and fishing) accounts for just 1.6% of GDP. Yet it absorbs a third of the EU’s total budget and costs an estimated €65 billion annually for direct payments, “agricultural market measures” and “rural development”.

CAP became a by-word for protectionism for Fortress Europe. It has often been called out as one of the more onerous burdens imposed on millions of developing country farmers. Showering subsidies and tariff protections on affluent European farmers, swelling food output and depressing world food prices is a well-documented part of the historical record.

Like most government policies, CAP was implemented with the best of intentions: improving productivity, ensuring a “fair standard of living” for farmers, “stabilizing” markets, establishing a secure supply chain with “reasonable” prices, “harmonizing competition rules across all countries”.

But, as usual with all big government programs, the unintended consequences of an extensive system of price and market controls put in place to guarantee farmers their accustomed standard of living effectively made them wards of state, “as grand an experiment in socialist management as anything Lenin was ever able to accomplish.”

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