French farmers engage in ‘civil war’ protest over subsidy cuts

French farmers launched a major protest in Toulouse during the week, blocking main routes to the city and making their voices heard.

The farmers set fire to tyres on motorways, dumped farm waste across roads and organised tractor demonstrations around France’s fourth largest city, according to local French media.

Farmers have allegedly declared the protest to be more akin to a “civil war” than a standard demonstration, claiming that “villages could die” if something is not done.

The turmoil was sparked by proposed government plans to cut the number of eligible ‘disadvantaged’ agricultural areas for certain EU subsidies by 100. The proposals will be decided on next Thursday (February 15), according to local media publication thelocal.fr.

It is believed that areas around Toulouse and the Haute Garonne department in France would be hit hardest, should the proposals be implemented, and protesters have reportedly claimed that their incomes could be cut by up to €7,000 a year.

According to thelocal.fr, approximately 50 farmers took to the roads in protest.

France’s largest farmers’ association, the FNSEA (National Federation of Farmers’ Unions), was behind the protest.

In an official statement on the matter, the farmers’ group said: “For more than 10 days, the farmers of Occitanie have demonstrated to express their incomprehension and their legitimate anger at a proposal to remove hundreds of communes in single deprived areas.”

The FNSEA added that, faced with this “unjust revision”, farmers from the regions of Occitanie, Deux-Sèvres, and Center Val-de-Loire have mobilised and protested against the threat to essential supports for maintaining agricultural activities in these low-income areas.

The organisation has demanded “new indisputable and fair” proposals that take into account the “reality of the handicaps” of the disadvantaged areas.

The FNSEA called on the French government to stop procrastinating and to honour its financial commitments.

Motorists were well warned to avoid Toulouse on Wednesday as a result of the protests.