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Farmers Protest, Who Gains?

Image: Tractors with protest signs in the street. Photo by stopthepave via flickr

A consortium of European media outlets investigate the power brokers of the burgeoning farmer protests in Europe and how they are turning the outrage to their advantage. They explore the key figures in France, Italy, Poland and Germany, who claim to represent the farmers and investigate whose interests they are really representing. 


This cross-border investigation was led by Lighthouse Reports in conjunction with media in France (Splann!) and Germany (Taz). It profiles the power brokers of the recent farmer protests across Europe, the links they have to industry and how they are turning the protests to their advantages. 

Through investigation the financial and corporate links of unions and farmer representatives using open source research, in particular company registry data, they discovered many are on the board of directors of multiple companies, hold various key positions that wield power over agricultural policies and own vastly more land and receive considerably more farm subsidies than an average farmer in their country. 

In France, Splann! analysed four key leaders of FNSEA (the Fédération nationale des syndicats d’exploitants agricoles), providing an unprecedented mapping of the multiple, and sometimes conflicting, roles they hold. It shows that these powerful men (Thierry Coué, André Sergent, Arnaud Rousseau and Jérôme Despey) occupy positions in a wide range of public and private bodies and how this stifles democratic farmer representation.

Taz in Germany investigated how one of Germany’s largest farmer associations, Deutsche Bauernverband, backtracked on agreements it had made in a consensus-based commission on the future of agriculture, the Zukunftskommission Landwirtschaft (ZKL) set up by the German government in July 2020. DBV’s behaviour raises questions on how effective the ongoing 

“Strategic Dialogue on the future of EU Agriculture”, launched by the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, will be, since it is modelled off the ZKL.

The Europeans podcast provides an overview of the situation in all four countries and in Brussels, unpacks some of the simplistic portrayals of the farmers’ protests, and outlines the challenges faced by small farmers. The podcast includes insights from several of the journalists involved in this investigation.

The investigation will be publishing a piece on Italy and Poland in the coming weeks. 

Read the Lighthouse summary in English here, the Splann piece here and Taz here. 

Listen to the Europeans podcast here

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