Dozens of tractors have joined the usual traffic in Madrid this Wednesday to demand more aid from the Government in the face of the drought that has plagued the country since 2022. The protest, called by the organization Unión de Unions de Agricultores y Ganaderos, has mobilized hundreds of farmers and ranchers from Andalusia, Catalonia, Castilla y León, Castilla-La Mancha, the Valencian Community, Cantabria, Extremadura and Madrid. The march has passed without altercations and, at times, with a festive atmosphere, despite the general anger that was perceived. “We need more aid because the sector is going through a very difficult time. Without them we will not be able to survive. This government has abandoned us”, stated one of the attendees, Antonio Jiménez, from Ávila, 58 years old and who has been working in the fields for 30 years.
The general coordinator of the organization, Luis Cortés, together with the representatives of each one of the Unions, has insisted on the lack of response from the Minister of Agriculture, Luis Planas, to his demands and the abandonment to which he has subjected the agricultural sector, insistently calling for his resignation. The organization delivered a protest table at the ministry headquarters which, among other measures, calls for extraordinary actions to alleviate losses and a greater activation of crisis funds. In the area of water, more coordination is called for in hydrological planning, review of drought plans and policies for the dismantling of water storage and wastewater regeneration infrastructures.
The Ministry of Agriculture claims to understand the situation of farmers and ranchers in the country; but they deny the lack of commitment on the part of the Government with the sector. Planas recalled that this Tuesday “the next phase of the payment of aid in relation to the livestock sectors has been made public and the criteria for how the drought aid will be distributed in relation to agricultural sectors have been put on public display” . Specifically, he pointed out that “in the last package approved on May 11, 355 million were included dedicated to the livestock sectors, particularly beef and milk cattle and sheep and goats, both meat and milk”.
Both to deal with the drought and the increase in production costs, Agriculture has recently disposed of just over 1,000 million euros. Of this figure, 355 million correspond to direct aid to offset the increase in costs for cattle, sheep and goat farmers; another 276 are paid to farmers affected by the drought. To these funds are added another 300 million that were granted to support the use of fertilizers due to production costs, another 81 million for drought from the Brussels crisis funds and another 41 million more in which insurance funds were increased so that the subsidy can reach up to 70%. Apart from direct aid, there are other measures on taxation, personal income tax, subsidized credits, IBI exemption or flexibility in the CAP.
During his speech at the Palacio de Congresos de Córdoba, where he was this Wednesday, Planas remarked that “this government responds, is mobilized in defense of the primary sector and does everything in its power” and added that “if the Autonomous communities want to do something more and add to what the Government of Spain does, they are welcome, but the Executive never fails and they are in the task of helping farmers and ranchers.
The purpose of the demonstration is to request more resources for the drought and greater urgency in the implementation of those already approved, as Cortés stated during a press conference. The organization calculates that many farmers and ranchers will lose between “900 and 1,000 euros per hectare and will only receive 25 in aid.” He has affirmed that “money is going to be returned to Brussels due to the conditions that have been placed on it to request the money from the CAP [Política Agrícola Común de la UE]”. The Union of Unions and all the protesters ask for more “forcefulness and responsibility” both from the current minister and from whoever may succeed him in office after the July 23 elections.
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At the end of Alfonso XII street, several demonstrators have stopped to dance a jota while they waited for the arrival of the tractors. Jiménez says that people are not aware of how much they invest to be able to work the fields. “What has changed the most over the years is that before you could live with 20 hectares and now we need a minimum of 200. The investment of a tractor, just one, is between 170,000 and 180,000 euros approximately. Nobody takes that into account, ”he laments.
In front of the Ministry of Agriculture, several assistants have taken out a coffin with a skeleton: “This is how we will all end up as things continue like this.” According to the Union of Unions of Farmers and Ranchers, some 180 tractors and more than 500 people have participated in the march. The data provided by the Government Delegation are somewhat lower: 85 tractors, 11 vehicles and 280 people.
Losses and “ruin”
The situation in the countryside due to the strong episodes of drought and the increase in production costs, due to the war in Ukraine and other factors, are leading the sector “to ruin”, say the Union of Unions. Jaume Aleu is one of the many who have moved from Catalonia. He left the province of Tarragona for the capital because “there is nothing in any way”. What he means is that “due to excessive regulations, bureaucracy and ecology, the countryside and its workers are dying.” He feels abandoned by the Administration and, although he attends the call, he does not know if the ministry will listen to them.
Unión de Uniones is the fourth largest agrarian organization in the country, with a strong presence in Catalonia (Unió de Pagesos), in the Valencian Community (Unió de Llauradors) and in Castilla y León (Unión de Campesinos). Despite this, it is not officially recognized as state representative like other forces. He has a dialogue with the ministry, but he does not go with the rest of the organizations, so this Wednesday’s protest is also an act claiming his presence at the tables.
Apart from the problems of the drought, the mobilization became a global claim against community policies and especially for the weight that is intended to be given to the green policy against the possibilities of production and against the viability and profitability of the holdings. The organization denounces the community strategy of production adjustments via policies of cuts in the use of zoo and phytosanitary products, as well as in terms of animal welfare, which will come into force in the coming months. Meanwhile, the borders are opened to all kinds of imports whose production does not require the same requirements and which threaten the viability of community farms.
In order to get to Madrid on time, several field professionals left Girona on Monday and on Tuesday they did so from the towns of Lleida, La Lastrilla (Segovia), Nambroca and Villacañas (Toledo) and Batea (Tarragona), while this Wednesday Three columns have left from Miajadas and Navalmoral de la Mata (Badajoz), and Utiel (Valencia). They have all come together in Torrejón de la Calzada, Cercedilla (Madrid) and Guadalajara, before reaching the center. The provincial delegations have not allowed them to go by highway, as they are heavy and slow transport, and they have traveled all the urban areas until they reached Madrid.