11 Jan 2024, 13:49
Jennifer Collins

Amid ‘emotional’ farming protests, German agriculture minister warns against dividing society


Germany risks becoming as polarised as the U.S. as farmers have blocked roads with tractors in massive protests over cuts to diesel subsidies, agriculture minister Cem Özdemir said, according to a report in German daily Tagesspiegel. Özdemir warned that a dangerous rift was emerging in German society, and that “people no longer talk to each other, they no longer believe each other, and they accuse each other of all the evil in the world.” He called for a discussion over agriculture’s role in society in light of consumers’ and farmers’ divergent interests. The former want “more animal welfare, more climate protection, more environmental and biological diversity and that’s good,” Özdemir said. But that can’t come at the expense of farmers, who need help through possible financing mechanisms like an “animal welfare levy” of a few cents on meat, he suggested. The Green Party lawmaker took questions at a farmers’ rally in Baden-Württemberg in southwest Germany amid boos from the crowd and said he did not agree with the cuts to agricultural fuel subsidies. 

Farmers in Germany kicked off a week of protests on Monday (8 January) after an emergency budget reshuffle by the government resulted in cuts to subsidies for fossil fuels. A constitutional court ruling in November left chancellor Olaf Scholz’s coalition short of 60 billion euros in climate and transformation funding, meaning the three parties had to quickly agree on money-saving measures. Fears were raised that far-right groups were hijacking the demonstrations after Green economy minister Robert Habeck was targeted in an illegitimate protest.

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