The fleet alone causes quite a stir: Among other things with thousands of tractors, farmers drove to demonstrations throughout Germany to protest against more stringent conditions for agriculture. The police in North Rhine-Westphalia reported some miles of tractor convoys, which in some places had traffic obstructions. In Duisburg about 140 tractors are said to have caused traffic jams.
"The western convoy of #TraktorDemo is about 10 km long, the eastern about 6 km! In total, about 1000 vehicles on the way to #Bonn" tweeted the police Munster as the competent assembly and deployment authority for the state. In Bonn, the largest rally of farmers is to take place, 10,000 participants are expected there.
In total, rallies have been announced in 17 cities, including Berlin, Munich, Stuttgart and Hanover. In the Oldenburg area, the police counted more than 1200 vehicles and reported on a 15-kilometer trek convoy on a main road. In Schleswig-Holstein were according to the forces in the morning 1700 vehicles for rallies to Rendsburg on the way. Another 400 tractors were on their way to Hamburg.
Carsten Rehder / DPA
Farmer protest in Rendsburg, Schleswig-Holstein
Who is behind the protests?
Called the initiative "Land creates connection". Their website states that it is "farmers and green industry players" who have networked via social media. So there is a Facebook group with 15,000 members and 100,000 people who are connected via WhatsApp. The initiative is independent of associations and institutions, it goes on to say.
The German Farmers Association is also behind the protests. "We have full sympathy for the demonstrators and are in solidarity as long as the actions remain non-violent," said Association President Joachim Rukwied the "Passauer Neue Presse". "I can imagine that we will not only see protests on Tuesday, but also in the weeks that follow," Rukwied said.
What are the farmers?
The initiative's website states that farmers have come together "because they see the current environmental and agricultural policies as endangering economic and social peace in rural areas in Germany".
Specifically, the initiative lists four points that should be discussed at the rallies:
- From the point of view of the initiators, the agrarian package of the Federal Government endangers family farms. The Federal Cabinet passed a package of measures for more environmental and animal protection in September. It stipulates that direct payments to agricultural enterprises should be redeployed and more closely linked to environmental protection requirements. In addition, an animal welfare label will be introduced and an insect repellent program will be implemented.
Peasant President Rukwied criticized especially the insect repellent plans. "2.3 million hectares of land would be severely affected," he said.
- The planned changes to the Fertilizer Ordinance also criticize the initiative. The tightened regulations led to "under-fertilization", they say. "In the so-called red areas, this damages the soil and the water more than it's useful," write the protest initiators.
As "red areas" are designated in the fertilizer regulation areas with a high load. Farmers have had to meet additional fertilizer requirements since 2017.
- Another criticism of the demo organizers: Farmers are "bogey of politics and many NGOs." "Permanent negative sentiment, peasant bashing , leads to anger and frustration in the profession. Discrimination, discrimination and bullying of relatives are part of the agenda," write the initiators. The profession of the farmer loses its attractiveness.
- The EU's free trade agreement with the South American Mercosur states also criticizes farmers. It is threatening "the supply of safe, high-quality and certified food from the region" through cheap prices of imported goods.
Nicolas Armer / DPA
Tractor convoy on the way to a demo in Bavaria
The farmers' initiative calls for direct talks with politicians. The goal is to sit down with Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner, Minister of the Environment Svenja Schulze and non-governmental organizations. "We want politics and associations to speak with us as the base," said Meike Schulz-Broers of the organizing team of the "Land Building Association" network.
How do politicians and NGOs react?
Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner has expressed understanding for the concerns of farmers. At the same time, the deputy CDU leader pointed to necessary changes in agriculture. "I have to say something to the farmers, changes, but I do not do that without me financially supporting them with support measures," said Klöckner in the ZDF "Morgenmagazin".
Farmers are often dismissed as animal tormentors or polluters in the social debate. That's wrong. Nevertheless, there are also expectations on the farmers, for example, in the cleanliness of groundwater and compliance with EU rules. "We are on the side of the farmers, but also on the side of the consumers," said the minister.
Meanwhile, Environment Minister Svenja Schulze (SPD) called for more protection for insects in agriculture. As justification, she pointed to the decline in numbers of field birds.
The environmental protection organization Greenpeace attributes the farmers' protests against environmental regulations to a "misguided agricultural policy that has been going on for decades". The principle of "waxing or dodging" has driven the majority of family farms since the 70s into ruin, said Greenpeace expert Martin Hofstetter. "A disastrous course that the German Farmers Association has actively supported with its lobbying work."
Greenpeace calls for a fundamental change in the system of agricultural subsidies. Companies that switch to a climate-friendly and species-friendly agriculture would need to receive targeted financial support. At the same time, however, consumers should be prepared to pay a reasonable price for healthy, environmentally friendly food, Hofstetter said.