France’s government announces new measures to calm farmers’ protests, as barricades squeeze Paris

A farmer pulls a toy tractor as farmers block a highway Tuesday in Jossigny, east of Paris. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

JOSSIGNY, France — France’s new prime minister showered promises of help on angry farmers Tuesday, from emergency cash aid to controls on imported food, in hopes that cools a protest movement that has seen tractors shut down highways across France and inspired similar actions around Europe.

Farmers seeking better pay, fewer constraints and lower costs are camped out on hay-strewn highways and encircling Paris, posing the biggest challenge to Prime Minister Gabriel Attal since his appointment less than a month ago. He sought to assuage their concerns in a sweeping policy speech Tuesday at the National Assembly.


“We need to listen to the farmers, who are working and are worried about their future and their livelihood,” Attal said.

“The goal is clear: guaranteeing fair competition, especially so that regulations that are being applied to (French) farmers are also respected by foreign products,” he said. Protection against cheap imports is one of the protesters’ main demands.

Attal promised emergency aid to struggling wine prodcuers and quick payments of EU subsidies to others. He also said food retailers who don’t comply with a law meant to ensure a fair share of revenues for farmers will be fined, starting immediately.

After several days of escalating protests, French farmers spent the night at barricades Monday to Tuesday, to press their case that growing and rearing food has become too difficult and not sufficiently lucrative.

Protesters rejected pro-agriculture measures that Attal announced last week as insufficient. They have threatened to move in on the capital, host of the Summer Olympics in six months, if their demands aren’t met. Protesters came prepared for an extended battle, with tents and reserves of food and water.

The government announced a deployment of 15,000 police officers, mostly in the Paris region, to stop any effort by the protesters to enter the capital. Officers and armored vehicles also were stationed at the Parisian hub for fresh food supplies, the Rungis market.

Farmers who slept on a highway near the Disneyland theme park east of Paris were skeptical that the government would do enough to help. They grilled sausages, set up a television to watch the prime minister’s speech and hung an effigy of a dying farmer from a bridge.

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