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The left struggles to mobilise farmers in Europe…

During this electoral campaign, agricultural issues have taken centre stage due to the spectacular protests staged by farmers across Europe since January.  

Right-wing parties have made more efforts to capitalise on these protests for political gains. Left-wing parties, from greens to socialists, struggle to prove they can be farmers’ best allies. 

Recently, environmental groups organised a pre-election demonstration in Brussels focusing on climate and agri-food issues. However, NGO stakeholders and politicians vastly outnumbered farmers.  

This contrasted sharply with an anti-Green Deal protest held on the outskirts of the Belgian capital that gathered 1,200 farmers from nine different countries.

In many farmers protest, demonstrators have expressed similar concerns over bureaucratic requirements, new trade agreements with non-EU countries, and low remuneration. 

Even engaged organic farmers recognised last week that producers require better compensation for protecting the environment and biodiversity. 

“It’s not about the regulation. It’s about the system that we put them through,” Léa Charlet, a Belgian green candidate for the European Parliament, told Euractiv.

The green transition, she added, is likely the only way for farmers to continue their work as extreme weather becomes increasingly frequent, biodiversity declines, and soil quality deteriorates.   

However, the EU’s Green Deal and its agri-food leg, the Farm to Fork strategy, have been criticised for pushing measures that would become costly for small and medium-sized farmers without offering additional financial support. 

And trying to impose new regulations on a group already facing economic hardship, as well as struggling to attract young people, nourishes feelings of frustration and anger that are easy for populist parties to exploit.

From our analysis of the candidates running for the new European Parliament, it emerges that in general, centre-right parties have made more efforts to add “farmer friendly” faces at the top of their lists, while S&D lost a couple of ‘heavyweights’, and liberals and Greens are likely to lose farmer MEPs.

Socio-economic challenges in agriculture are driving support for Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National (RN) in France, according to a 2024 report for the European Committee of the Regions.  

In Italy, right-wing nationalistic parties are more popular in rural areas than in urban ones.

In Germany, rural voters are by far the largest supporters of the far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), the report recalled.

Recent local elections in Poland showed that although the hard-right PiS (Law and Justice) party lost power, the countryside remained its firm stronghold.

Exit polls from the Netherlands also suggest that the Dutch BoerBurgerBewegin (BBB) will become the first farmers’ party to sit in the European Parliament – and join the ranks of the European People’s Party. 

In this scenario, the left’s struggle to connect with farmers risks becoming a factor of further polarisation of the agrifood debate in the next mandate.

By Sofia Sanchez Manzanaro | Euractiv

Agrifood Journalist

Location: Brussels
Languages: English, Spanish, French, Catalan
Expertise: Agrifood
Location Expertise: Lyon, Brussels

About İsmail Uğural

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