The conflict over diesel discounts for farmers overshadowed the start of the Green Week agricultural trade fair in Berlin. The farmers’ association threatened new nationwide actions as early as next week if the traffic light coalition did not drop the planned reduction in agricultural diesel subsidies.

The previous protests were the “foreshock,” said farmers’ president Joachim Rukwied in Berlin. “If nothing changes, an eruption may occur.” There was an exchange of blows in the Bundestag about better prospects for agriculture. The Green Week was scheduled to open in the evening at the exhibition grounds.

Rukwied said: “From next Monday, if the budget adjustment meeting this evening does not produce a positive result in our opinion, we will continue with actions again across the entire Federal Republic.” The following also applies: “We want to set pinpricks that hurt, but in no way escalate or radicalize.” He didn’t give any details.

Rukwied speaks of distortion of competition

The Bundestag’s budget committee is discussing the 2024 budget and planned savings, which will also affect agricultural diesel, in a reconciliation meeting today. The coalition had already weakened the plans. The tax breaks for farmers should therefore not end all at once, but should be phased out gradually. Thousands of farmers have been protesting against this with tractors and rallies for weeks. The farmers’ association is calling for the plans to be withdrawn.

“We don’t even need to ask the farmers,” said Rukwied. They keep calling and asking: “Is anything moving? If nothing moves, we’ll go back on the road.” Now the issue of agricultural diesel in the interests of agriculture must be taken off the table.

Only when this has been resolved can and will further topics be discussed. “It makes no sense to discuss an overall strategy now. First, distortions of competition must be taken off the table.”

Several agricultural and environmental organizations in the so-called agricultural alliance expressed understanding for the anger of the agricultural industry on Thursday. At the same time, when presenting its annual “Critical Agricultural Report”, the alliance warned that the dispute over agricultural diesel was ignoring the fundamental problems in agriculture.

Özdemir promotes common solutions

The traffic light coalition is committed to resolving the conflict through other forms of relief for agriculture. Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir advocated cross-party solutions to improve the framework conditions for the industry. You now have the opportunity to drive everyone into the trees, said the Green politician in the Bundestag.

“Or we can all work constructively together to ensure that German agriculture is positioned for the future.” Farmers could protect nature and animals and at the same time produce high-quality food. “But someone has to pay for the effort.”

Özdemir once again campaigned for secure financing for the conversion of animal husbandry with an “animal welfare cent”. The position of farmers in the chain up to trade must be strengthened. The Bundestag adopted a motion for a resolution from the traffic light groups that names possible relief. This formulates the political commitment to “list concrete projects in the first quarter of 2024” and to decide on them by the summer.

From the perspective of the agricultural alliance, this plan is too long-term. Answers to the industry’s crisis are needed now and not just in the summer, the organizations emphasized. Concrete ideas are on the table. They finally have to be implemented. “The ball is on the penalty spot, now the government just has to shoot,” said the managing director of the agricultural alliance, Frieder Thomas.

Some associations in the alliance accused the president of the farmers’ association, Joachim Rukwied, of refusing to discuss urgent issues such as animal welfare as long as the agricultural diesel issue was not resolved. “I have the impression that Mr. Rukwied is turning this into a personal test of strength,” said Carolin Pagel, agricultural policy advisor at the Bioland farming association.

Dobrindt criticizes traffic lights

CSU regional group leader Alexander Dobrindt criticized the fact that the proposal from the SPD, Greens and FDP did not contain a single concrete commitment to agriculture. This is an “agricultural policy insolvency application” by the coalition. Agricultural diesel is a fair measure and not a climate-damaging subsidy.

“Take back the tax increase and you will get peace in this country,” said Dobrindt. CDU leader Friedrich Merz accused the federal government of pursuing policies against rural areas. The demonstrations are “an expression of ever-increasing dissatisfaction and pent-up frustration.”