June 13, 2024

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European farmers angry over climate policies could influence EU Parliament elections: NPR

European farmers angry over climate policies could influence EU Parliament elections: NPR

Anthony Lee stands in front of his barn on his family’s farm in the German state of Lower Saxony. Lee has been an outspoken critic of EU climate change policies and has been a leader in Europe’s farmer protest movement. He is running for the European Parliament for the right-wing Free Voter party, and his YouTube channel has more than 24 million views.

Rob Schmitz/NPR


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Rob Schmitz/NPR

HANOVER, Germany — Last year, Anthony Lee received a letter from the Ministry of Agriculture in the German state of Lower Saxony, where he runs his family farm. The letter informed him that a tree had fallen on his land, removing the agricultural potential of a few hundred square feet of sugar beet fields, and thus his annual farm subsidy would be reduced by the equivalent of about $10.

“Every three days, satellites fly over our properties and fields,” he tells me, pointing to the sky. “And then every farmer has to download an app, and we get text messages saying, ‘In your field on such-and-such day, something is not right. Take a photo and send us that photo. This is how crazy it is now.”

Twenty-first-century farming in Europe means GPS-enabled tractors, rules inspired by climate change, and crop rotations monitored by cameras in space.

“If a satellite image shows you or shows the government that something is not right, if you say we grow wheat and [instead] “If you plant corn, it automatically sends them a message that something is wrong,” Lee says. “Or if you take out fertilizer [at] A certain time you are not allowed, or if you plow your field, I mean, frankly, they talk about not plowing.”

Lee – a candidate in this week’s European Parliament elections – is a spokesman for the German Farmers’ Association, which has been organizing the farmer protests.

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He says he began to feel that the state was slowly taking over his farm. He’s not alone.

So far this year, farmers across Europe have organized more than 4,000 protests, 300% increaseover the past year, according to global risk data firm Verrisk Maplecroft. They are angry about new environmental regulations, the removal of subsidies and cheap agricultural imports that do not meet the same level of requirements for the food they produce. While the European Union will hold parliamentary elections this week. Surveys Analysts expect a swing to the right. Vocal farmers can prove to be a powerful force to help influence the vote.

Farmers park their tractors near the European Parliament during a protest organized by several European farmers' associations in Brussels, on Tuesday.

Farmers park their tractors near the European Parliament during a protest organized by several European farmers’ associations in Brussels, on Tuesday.

Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu via Getty Images


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Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu via Getty Images

Armed with beets and manure

European officials have set a target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 100%. More than half By 2030, scientists say, it will become Europe Faster warming continent on this planet. But the European Union has weakened or postponed some proposed agricultural policies as a concession to the protesting farmers.

Many demonstrations turned violent, such as protests in February and March in Brussels, the seat of the European Union government. The farmers threw beets at the police and then sprayed liquid fertilizer before the police responded with tear gas and water cannons.

“I mean, in the case of European farmers, we’re talking about relatively small farmers who are good at farming,” says Alan Matthews, retired professor of European agricultural policy at Trinity College Dublin.

“But now we’re asking them to be — in addition to being farmers and, of course, a CFO — we’re now asking them to be part ecologists, part conservationists,” Matthews says. “They need to know how they’re impacting greenhouse gas emissions. So there’s a whole set of additional obligations and requirements, if you will, that we’re asking farmers to make.”

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Agriculture contributes 10% of the EU’s total greenhouse gas emissions, mainly through methane and nitrous oxide, according to the EU report. European Commission.

From climate change marches to protests against climate laws

In the last European Parliament elections in 2019, pro-environmental Green Party politicians had their strongest performance amid massive student-led protests around the world for action against climate change. Now the pendulum can swing.

Matthews says the farmer protest movement across Europe in the months leading up to the election reminds him of the climate change demonstrations that broke out around the previous vote. “We now have farmer protests rather than youth protests ahead of the European elections,” notes Matthews. “But I think the protests themselves are likely to have a similar effect” — in reverse.

Matthews sees the pendulum swinging in Draft five-year strategic agenda Published by the European Council, the highest decision-making body of the European Union. The last five-year agenda set out the transition to a greener, more sustainable Europe, and “all that language has disappeared from the current draft of the next strategic agenda,” Matthews says. “The focus is more on competitiveness, on sovereignty and on trade issues, which is also reflected in the food and agriculture agenda.”

This shift has alarmed many environmentally conscious politicians. Michael Bloss, a German member of the European Union Parliament for the Green Party, says stalling on climate change policies to placate protesting farmers is a step backwards. “This is bad for environmental policy,” he says. “Their sector is not fully regulated in terms of climate, so it cannot be climate policies that make them angry. But certainly we are fighting with them to get better prices for their production. But here it is not the Greens who are responsible, but the big retailers who are not giving them what Enough for their products.

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For farmer Li, low produce prices are an additional problem, which is why he has turned to other sources of income such as a small hotel and a beer garden he built on his farm to attract tourists to the area.

But Lee says the bigger problem lies with the Green Party itself. “It’s definitely an agenda to get rid of small agricultural businesses,” he says of the Green Party’s policies. “They are telling us the opposite. The first farms to go bankrupt are the small farms because they cannot adapt to this system.”

Anthony Lee's farm in Lower Saxony, Germany.

Anthony Lee’s farm in Lower Saxony, Germany.

Rob Schmitz/NPR


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Rob Schmitz/NPR

Lee took to YouTube to air his grievances – where he was Hundreds of videos It has more than 24 million views combined.

He is running for membership in the European Parliament from the right-wing Liberal Voters Party. He attracted Media attention To blame politicians for wanting to seize farmers’ land to build refugee housing, a claim for which he provided no evidence.

Lee ignores these criticisms, saying that he does not belong to the extreme right. He says he is just a family farmer who wants the EU to return more decision-making powers to those who work the land and feed Europe.

Esme Nicholson contributed to this report from Berlin.