On Tuesday 8 December, the Belgian peasant farmers’ movement and its allies set up a number of boots at the Schuman roundabout in front of the European Commission, representing the many farmers who have disappeared from the profession. The movement opposes the ratification of the EU-Mercosur free trade agreement and the CAP reform draft.
Réseau de soutien à l’agriculture paysanne (RéSAP), Agroecology in Action, the Youth for Climate and some fifteen other organisations met in Brussels to denounce the inconsistencies between the European Union’s agricultural, trade and environmental policies. More than 200 pairs of boots were displayed in front of the European Commission. They symbolise the disappearance of farmers in Belgium. Every week on average 18 farms close their doors and stop their activity for good. For RéSAP, stopping the haemorrhaging decline in the number of farmers is both a social and environmental emergency.
Following intense lobbying by COPA COGECA, which defends the interests of industrial agriculture, CAP subsidies continue to be based on the surface area of farms, without taking into account land use or production methods, and environmental measures are being relaxed.  Guy Franck (see photos), a farmer, spoke on behalf of Fairebel: “We can no longer put up with this lobbying, which is steering European policies in the wrong direction”.
At the same time, the treaty with Mercosur aims to increase international trade in agricultural products and competition between producers. These policies favour large-scale, export-oriented industrial agriculture at the expense of biodiversity, climate and quality agricultural employment. Conversely, peasant, family and agro-ecological agriculture, which takes care of the environment to produce quality food, is disappearing.
For the organisers of the event, the European Union must support this agriculture in order to achieve its own climate objectives. Marie-Hélène Lefèvre (see photos), from the NGO FIAN Belgium, explains that “the situation is particularly frustrating, as solutions for combining agriculture and the environment exist and are proving their worth. But they are disappearing because the European Union prefers to support agribusiness”.
Tijs Boelens (see photos), a farmer, strongly questioned European politicians: “Where are you when farmers are disappearing one after the other? We are not angry, we are sad, we are disappointed.”
1] Average calculated over the period 2018 – 2019 via https://statbel.fgov.be/fr/nouvelles/chiffres-cles-de-lagriculture-2020
Photos available here (royalty free photos – owner Damien Charles)
ECVC – firstname.lastname@example.org, +32 2 217 31 12
Amaury Ghijselings (CNCD 11 11 11) Amaury.Ghijselings@cncd.be +32 (0) 4220.127.116.11
Marie-Hélène Lefèvre (FIAN Belgium) email@example.com +32 (0) 418.104.22.168
With the support of: Mouvement d’Action Paysanne, FUGEA, Boerenforum, MIG, Agroecology in Action, Voedsel Anders, Youth for Climate, FIAN Belgium, Oxfam – Magasins du Monde, SOS Faim, Quinoa, Greenpeace, Rencontre des Continents, Début des Haricots, Réseau des Consommateurs Responsables, Cense Equi’voc, Entraide et fraternité, Autre Terre, Terre en Vue, Réseau des GASAP, CNCD-11. 11.11, Attac Brussels 2, 11.11.11, Wervel, CSA-netwerk, Broederlijk Delen, Solidagro, BOS+, Oost-West centrum, European Coordination Via Campesina (ECVC).