For the sixth year in a row, last weekend found me in Berlin for the annual Wir Haben Es Satt.
This event coincides with the international Green Week exhibition of the food, agriculture and gardening industries, attended by around 400,000.
Up to 35,000 attended the Wir Haben Es Satt (“we are fed up”) protest against mainstream agriculture, which includes a 170-tractor cavalcade. So this is no naive, urban initiative.
Instead, small farmers, organic, rural and other organisations come together to capture some of the momentum of Green Week, and to present an alternative.
In Germany and France, there are quite active and politically engaged small or agroecological farmer organisations, such as ABL and Confederation Paysanne.
These organisations present a coherent position on agri-food policy, at variance from their mainstream contemporaries.
There was a series of Wir Haben Es Satt events from Thursday to Sunday. Every hour, there seemed to be another action, meeting, or chance encounter.
It’s all very colourful, noisy and both fun and functional. There is much work, and alliances to be built by organisations who attend.
This year, there was a strong focus on the unfairness of CAP payments.
Meanwhile, 70 agriculture ministers from around Europe and the world met at Green Week.
According to Friends of the Earth Europe: “In Germany, €6.3 billion of EU agricultural funds are distributed to farms every year, more than three-quarters of which are flat-rate, per-hectare subsidies.
This favours large, industrial farms, and squeezes out sustainable smallholders. The 3,300 largest businesses will receive €1 billion a year, while the smallest 200,000 farms share about €700m.”
Targeting per hectare, historical payments was clear in Wir Haben Es Satt’s literature, social media, and statements. “We are fed up with the federal government’s
agriculture policy,” said
Moritz Schäfer, a 32-year-old farmer who drove his tractor from Schwalmtal in central Germany, where he manages a 250-hectare farm with 100 cows. “We work every day to make good, fairly-produced food and we demand political support.”
“My cows are out in the pasture, and I produce the feed on site and sow a variety of crops. The insects, water and climate thank me, but the policy does not. Julia Klöckner [Germany’s agri minister] must stop backing the agribusiness industry and represent a policy for farmers, bees and viable villages.”
Julia Klöckner has been criticised by her coalition partners (in particular Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze). Schulze said last week, “Due to the lack of support from the Ministry of Agriculture, we as the Federal Government have been unable to actively support any of the concrete proposals for more environmental protection in agricultural subsidies.”
Whether any CAP reform can happen before European Parliament elections is another story.
What was interesting at Wir Haben Es Satt was how the vegan bloc fits in. Younger and more dynamic than many of the other blocs, these angelic upstarts nevertheless made their points, while co-existing with the livestock farmers.
On the the vegan front, things are moving fast. Four years ago, when a German ag minister suggested maybe sticking to WHO guidelines on meat consumption, there was uproar from farmers. This year, when Klöckner visited a standard enough dairy farm, she was criticised for even showing up.
n On my flight to Berlin, by chance the seat behind me was occupied by none other than Minister of State Andrew Doyle.
We chatted about organics, and the Minister was confident that the organic action plan will be released very soon.
I’ll keep you posted.