German farmers launch nationwide protests against subsidy cuts

Exhibition / new tractors lined up next to each other in a row

German farmers on Monday kick-started a week of planned protests over the federal government’s proposal to cut subsidies for the agricultural sector.

Hundreds of tractors blocked the downtown area in cities such as Berlin, Hamburg, Cologne, and Bremen; elsewhere, large convoys of farm vehicles disrupted traffic on major highways. Most of the country’s 16 states were affected.

The government, which in December set out a plan to tackle the €17bn gap in its 2024 budget, had planned to abolish subsidies on agricultural diesel with immediate effect.

However, following an uproar from farmers, it last week softened its position, saying that it would instead phase out the tax break on agricultural diesel over several years. It also dropped plans to abolish preferential treatment in vehicle tax.

Those concessions have done little to mollify farmers’ anger, though. Many in the sector say that the government’s revised plan will still make it even more difficult for farmers to survive, and, ultimately, jeopardize the future viability of domestic food production.

Accordingly, farming groups have indicated that the protests will continue until the proposed changes are scrapped. Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Monday rejected their demands.

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