Farmers in Germany decry plans to scrap diesel tax breaks


Euronews correspondent Liv Stroud travels to the German capital to speak to farmers protesting against the Bundestag’s plan to abolish diesel subsidies.


Tens of thousands of farmers flocked to Berlin on tractors on Monday for the culmination of a week of demonstrations against a plan to abolish tax breaks on the diesel they use, a protest that tapped into wider discontent with the government German.

Police reported late Sunday evening that the space reserved for vehicles in front of the Brandenburg Gate, where Monday’s demonstration took place, was already full.

Over the past week, farmers have blocked motorway entrances and slowed traffic across Germany with their protests, aiming to push Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government to abandon planned cuts altogether.

They are not satisfied with the concessions the government has already made. On January 4 he watered down his original plan, saying the car tax exemption for agricultural vehicles would be maintained and that cuts to diesel tax breaks would be spread over three years.

Philipp Oswald, a 24-year-old farmer, said farmers would prefer not to rely on subsidies, but warned that without them many would be forced to abandon the profession and Germany would find itself having to rely on more imports.

“It is not in anyone’s interest to excessively import goods from abroad that have not been produced according to the standards we have been following for 30 or 40 years,” he told Euronews.

Scholz said in a video message Saturday that “we have taken the farmers’ arguments to heart” and insisted that the government find “a good compromise.” He also said officials will discuss “what else we can do to make agriculture have a good future.”

Leaders of parliamentary groups from the three ruling parties plan to meet with farmers’ representatives, although officials have dampened hopes of eliminating subsidy cuts.

Martin Hofstetter, agricultural policy expert at Greenpeace Germany, said that 50% of German farmers’ income comes from agricultural subsidies.

He warned that “it is clear that these subsidies, as they are paid currently, make no sense in the long run. Even farmers know this. We could go and say: let’s see who needs this money. And then, how do we use the money? money in the future? It is clear that our agriculture must be more climate-friendly, climate-adapted, respond to climate change and become greener.”

Hofstetter, who studied agriculture, said he doesn’t believe all or many farms will suddenly stop producing if subsidies are reduced, but he says a greater focus on regional markets, on the European market, would emerge.

“For the 420 million EU residents who want high-quality products, we should focus more on them and less on competing with China or Brazil on the world market,” he explained.

The plan to cut tax breaks arises from the need to fill a big hole in the 2024 budget. The farmers’ protests come at a time of profound general discontent with Scholz’s centre-left government, which has become known for frequent public arguments and long disputes over decisions that are sometimes poorly communicated.

Scholz acknowledges that the concerns go far beyond agricultural subsidies, saying that crises, conflicts and worries about the future worry people.

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