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French farmers to protest as Macron battles ‘yellow vest’ movement

The farmers’ grievances include financial charges on their operations, the head of the main agricultural union said.

President Emmanuel Macron inspects damage after “yellow vest” protest. Picture: @EmmanuelMacron/Twitter.

PARIS - French farmers said Wednesday that they will stage a series of protests next week, adding to President Emmanuel Macron’s woes as the “yellow vest” anti-tax movement rocks the country.

The farmers’ grievances include financial charges on their operations, the head of the main agricultural union told AFP.

“No specific day has been set, it’s for the week,” Christiane Lambert said of the farmer protests.

She said the farmers were not officially joining the “yellow vests”, a grassroots uprising which has shunned alignments with political parties or labour unions.

“They want an apolitical movement, without unions, and I respect that,” she said, adding that farmers were facing “specific problems”.

She accused the government of “agri-bashing” by imposing new regulations such as requiring farmers to declare when they use glyphosate, a weed killer suspected by some scientists of causing cancer.

“Farmers feel humiliated,” Lambert said.

Many are also worried after Agriculture Minister Didier Guillaume said Wednesday that measures aimed at improving their negotiating power with distributors would be delayed as the government grapples with the “yellow vest” movement.

The measures aim to prevent distributors and retailers from selling at a loss and limit price wars that farmers say are squeezing their margins to the limit.

They were supposed to be approved at a cabinet meeting Wednesday and come into effect on 1 January.

But they may now be delayed until later in the month or February, Guillaume said.

“It’s delayed, but there must not be any retreat by the government,” Lambert said.

“The important thing is that it can be applied as of 1 January,” she said.

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