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Commentary from Tagesspiegel: Take it easy! The excessive behavior of the farmers is alarming

We have wealthy farmers, we have impoverished farmers. This has always been the case. The agricultural sector is not particularly homogenous, even if the protest that is now spreading across the country from this Monday should give the opposite impression.

The German Farmers’ Association, which is now setting the tractors in motion, is indeed the largest and most powerful representation in agriculture – but not the only one.

And perhaps not the most wisely advised. Because, especially since the decision of the government leaders to not implement the announced burdens on vehicle tax and agricultural diesel to a larger extent, the nationwide drama staged by the farmers’ lobby appears quite exaggerated.

The focus is not least on the farmer president Joachim Rukwied. Three weeks ago, he announced a “hot January” in case the government does not completely abandon its plans, and added that the farmers would be present everywhere from this Monday – “in a way the country has not yet experienced”.

Alarming excessiveness in Rukwied’s demand

Someone who talks so big and makes such a threat puts themselves under considerable pressure to succeed. Rukwied now has to figure out how to get the situation back under control.

That even the leaders of CDU and CSU urged the protesting farmers to show restraint over the weekend was not only due to the form of resistance. It is also the excessiveness of the ultimate demand that is alarming.

Someone who acts in this way is either in deep trouble – or they are exaggerating. The latter seems likely. And thus, the Farmers’ Association risks what it should fear: lack of understanding in the general public. Especially if there is a call for distancing from right-wing activities during the protests.

Undoubtedly, there are farms in agriculture that will be affected by the cutbacks. And it is understandable that in a difficult sector, there is growing dissatisfaction with a government that is perceived as a hostile organization.

For the majority of agriculture, the Ampel measure is not a burden

But the burden is not that great. According to the calculation of an agricultural economist quoted by the “FAZ” over the weekend, the Ampel measures mean a reduction of five percent in subsidies and two to three percent in profit. Businesses in trouble will then have a problem. But this does not apply to the majority of agriculture.

After decades of undoubtedly painful structural change, it is a quite powerful sector, which also receives more in subsidies, grants, and credit benefits than other sectors in the medium-sized businesses.

Starting from Monday, it’s not old tractors rumbling to the protest locations, but swiftly moving high-tech vehicles, which are expensive to acquire. Those who present a shaky balance sheet to their bank will not get a loan.

Alienation

Discrepancy between the sphere of politics and agriculture

However, what is also evident is a growing alienation between a segment of the political realm and the agricultural sector. Not only are the protests vigorous, but so was the approach of the political leaders. Since Horst Seehofer assumed the position of Federal Minister of Agriculture in 2005, the Union has virtually taken over the agricultural policy single-handedly.

The SPD visibly lacks access to this sphere of politics, the business-oriented party FDP has forgotten about it – and the Greens distinctly differentiate between friend and foe in rural areas, depending on the method of production in their own characteristic way.

Meanwhile, the broad middle seems somewhat bewildered by the confrontational activities, especially as it provides an opportunity for far-right extremists to intervene. The authorities have botched the matter as thoroughly as the clumsily acting head of the Farmers’ Association. One wishes to tell them: Take it easy. The traffic light coalition, it must be said, has done so. Now it’s up to the farmers.

A commentary by Albert Funk

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