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Farmers Are Trying to Protect France's Food by Blocking the Borders

Bonjour Max. The people in France are pretty mad.
Photo via Flickr user Marius Strom

The latest from the highways in France: it's kind of like Mad Max, except for a minor detail or two. And instead of setting the pastoral French countryside ablaze in a last-ditch effort to defend fair maidens from a crazed, roving patriarchy with a penchant for huffing paint, this particular iteration of road warfare is 100-percent more about multinational agricultural trade agreements.

At least that's the impression I got after reading about the latest developments in France's prolonged series of farmer protests. For those of you who haven't had the chance to pop over to France in the last month, the whole country seems to be affected at this point by the ongoing protests implemented by some extremely organized meat and dairy farmers.


French farmers have even been blocking some of the nation's most famous sites, right at the height of the summer tourist season. Want to see medieval abbey Mont St. Michel, or the famous Paleolithic paintings in the Lascaux Caves? Sorry, the route may be blocked by flaming manure piles. Trying to get to the Channel Tunnel? Mountains of tires and trash may be blocking the way. And all of this is a protest by farmers to defend French-made food.

The unionized farm folk are taking issue with what they perceive to be cheap food imported from neighboring countries, which they say are driving prices down for home-grown French cattle, produce, and other foodstuffs. Coupled with pressure for low pricing from supermarket chains, the farmers are claiming that roughly 10 percent of France's livestock farms are now on the brink of bankruptcy. And just in case you thought that this was the first time France's farmers have resorted to these kind of tactics, think again.

READ MORE: Feeling Shat Upon by Regulations, French Farmers Dumped Manure on Government Buildings

This week, a group of the protesting farmers have set up roadblocks along the Spanish and German borders in the hopes of halting any trucks containing food from entering the country. Using hundreds of their own tractors, the farmers have blockaded six entry routes in the Rhine and all of the A645 motorway on the Spanish border. In Alsace, Franck Sander, the president of the local branch of the FNSEA farmers' union, says up to 300 trucks containing products bound for French markets have been stopped.

"For example, we made a truck carrying Babybel turn back. Consumers think it is French but this cheese came from Slovakia," said Sander. Amid claims that the protestors would decide whether to continue their protest after meeting with officials today, vehicles not containing food products were allegedly allowed to pass through the makeshift blockades.

France is Europe's largest agricultural producer. Under European Union rules, the French government cannot provide direct financial aid to the agriculture sector. The government did, however, offer to back loans and delay tax payments for farmers, but the farmers say it's not enough to solve their grievances.

The President of France, Francois Hollande, says farmers should know: "We are on their side." The farmers don't seem to agree. So burning tires, manure mountains, and tractor pileups are keeping people off roads. Why can't all revolutions be at the barrel of a piping bag?

Bonjour Max. The people in France are pretty mad.