February 21, 2024

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The German farmer protests started 2024 off with a bang. Last week, irate farmers prevented Germany’s Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck from getting off a ferry as he returned from vacation.  This week, German farmers are taking to the highways.  They have blocked Berlin’s iconic Brandenburg Gate to protest the government’s removal of the agricultural diesel subsidy.  The farmers and their supporters plan to continue protesting throughout the week of January 8. And they’re not alone. Farmers in France are also protesting, and we saw last year farmers in the Netherlands protesting.

What started it all in Germany?

The controversy began with an argument over what to do with debt accumulated during Covid.  Germany’s notoriously strict rules regarding debt creation were lifted during Covid, for the same reasons so many rules were suspended here in the US.  After the pandemic officially ended, the German government found itself with unused debt and decided to put the money toward its Climate and Transformation Fund.  

The opposing party coalition sued, saying that the German government is not supposed to shift money around like that.  This forced the groups supporting climate initiatives to find money elsewhere.

So, the German government decided to end some agricultural subsidies to fill the budget gaps.  They originally planned to end tax breaks for agricultural vehicles and diesel subsidies, but after a series of protests in December, announced they would continue the vehicle tax breaks and phase out the diesel subsidies over a wider time frame.

The German agricultural sector doesn’t want to hear it. They feel that they are being unfairly targeted.  In an interview with Reuters, German trucker Joachim, protesting with the farmers, said it wasn’t just the diesel subsidies. It was the cost of everything going up  

“What the government is doing to us, increasing the road tax, increasing the price of diesel, and so on—no one can afford this anymore.  Everyone is affected, and the problem is, everyone going shopping notices it and has to suffer.”

Similar sentiments were echoed by other protesters.  Redacted’s Clayton Morris traveled to Berlin to report on the German protests, and his January 8 show revealed footage and brief interviews with Germans braving the frigid weather to show their support for the farmers.

The farmer protests are really about something much larger.

Despite their being painted as “right-wing extremists” by official media, the protesters have all insisted that they are merely realists.  They see government money being spent on climate initiatives and foreign wars that do not benefit the population at large, and they want the general public to wake up to what’s going on.  

Europeans have had their lives upended over the past ten years by a combination of massive refugee waves and industry-killing climate regulations.  Any party, like Alternative for Deutschland (Afd), that attempts to refocus attention on the needs of average European citizens as opposed to the global “responsibilities” the political class thinks it has, gets painted as far-right.  Figures in German government, including opposition party leaders and the German Institute for Human Rights, are trying to ban AfD, even as it is rapidly on its way to becoming Germany’s most popular political party. 

The German farmers are not alone.  The scale of the protests is massive.  Many truckers have joined in, as they have also been affected by changing tax policies and diesel pricing. Polish truckers are driving in to support their German friends 

Similar farmer protests have been raging in other parts of Europe.

We’ve discussed the Dutch protests at some length, but France has had its own share of excitement.  French farmers have been protesting rising diesel and fertilizer prices, late subsidy payments, increased regulation, and competition from imports.

In November, French farmers began turning road signs upside down and, in December, sprayed manure on government buildings in Dijon and Quimper.  In Toulouse, farmers doused the local government building with liquid manure, then made a pile of trash, hay, and car tires at the entrance and set the whole thing ablaze.  Upon completing that task, the farmers went back to work on their farms because that’s what farmers do.

This quiet return to work after such a dramatic act of protest shows that these are not hooligans looking for wanton destruction.  They don’t want to “burn it all down,” only the policies that are ruining their livelihoods.

Yet European politicians have found it easier to call out the protesters as extremists rather than engage with them.  German politicians insist that the protests are illegitimate.  After his ordeal on the ferry, Vice Chancellor Habeck did not even address the farmers’ legitimate complaints. He said his biggest concern was for civil servants who couldn’t afford police protection.  

There’s an enormous divide between politicians and ordinary citizens.

I’m not sure how much more disconnected from his citizens a politician can get.  The current situation reveals the divide between the political class making the decisions and the farmers and truckers who have to live with them.

The political class, both within Germany as well as the Eurocrats from Brussels, is attempting to phase out the use of fossil fuels and is ending the subsidies partly as a means of doing so.  Do I wish agriculture was less dependent on chemical inputs?  Sure.  But expecting farmers to bear the brunt of the financial burden as the political class continues its lifestyle as normal is too much to ask.  

As trucker Joachim noted, average shoppers are feeling the pinch every time they go to the store.  While farmers and truckers are aware that Germany’s funding for globally-directed climate projects is related to increased prices, many consumers are not.  I suspect that part of the media’s push to paint protesting farmers as “right-wing extremists” has to do with keeping the average, non-farming citizen in the dark regarding the real reasons behind price increases.  

Unfortunately, farmers are fairly separate from most of the people who enjoy the fruits of their labor.  And the lifestyle is something many people don’t understand or sympathize with, even among those who consider themselves politically aligned with farmers.

Farmers are the canaries in the climate initiative coalmine.

For example, “voting with your feet” is a common theme on many libertarian websites.  Are you a conservative stuck in a liberal state?  Then just pick up and move!  To Texas, to Florida, to Tennessee, to anywhere you think you’ll fit in.  

That’s a lot harder for farmers.  Farming involves so much place-specific knowledge that picking up and moving means leaving behind a huge set of skills and insights that may not translate well to other locales. Running away from disagreeable politics is a far less realistic option for them.

And so, because of their reduced ability to shift their businesses around, farmers are the canaries in the coal mine, particularly when it comes to many of the items involved in Agenda 2030.

Germany and France both have ambitious targets for climate neutrality. They both plan to be fully carbon-neutral by 2050.  The German government intends to reduce carbon emissions by 55% by 2030 and the French by 50% by 2030. This is six years away.

Electric grids in Europe are simply not capable of powering this transition in the next six years.  Meeting these climate initiatives will require very dramatic reductions in quality of life, and the French and German farmers see it coming.

We’ve discussed the global smart city initiative before on this website. Berlin has been heavily involved in this movement since its inception.  The farmers aren’t protesting because they are greedy; they are protesting because they see how the destruction of their businesses fits a wider agenda.

Our way of life is changing dramatically.

Protesting farmers need to be heard and attended to, not dismissed as troublemakers.  The farmers’ and truckers’ rallies around the globe have been overwhelmingly peaceful.  I hope they stay that way. I think most people realize now that any violence will bring down the hammer.  

I also hope that more average citizens wake up to what’s going on.  Right now, people notice that stuff’s expensive; too many of them are not asking why.  You can’t force people to ditch their favorite news sources and listen to more worthwhile podcasts. However, thousands of farm vehicles on the highways and in the cities will garner attention.  I support what these farmers are trying to do, and I hope it works.  

What are your thoughts?

What do you think of the farmer protests in Europe? Do you think it will be enough to slow down detrimental climate change initiatives? Why aren’t there similar protests in the United States, or is it just a matter of time until it reaches our country? Do you think these farmers are doing the right thing?

Let’s discuss it in the comments section.

About Marie Hawthorne

A lover of novels and cultivator of superb apple pie recipes, Marie spends her free time writing about the world around her.