European farmers protesting in Brussels sprayed the European Parliament building and riot police with fresh milk, demanding that parliamentarians do something to increase milk prices and prevent dairies from going out of business.
Thousands of dairy farmers arrived in the Belgian capital Monday for two days of protests. The farmers, mainly from France, the Netherlands, and Germany, arrived on tractors along with cows, horses, and other equipment, reported Belgian-based De Redactie.
The dairy farmers want the European Union (EU) to increase the price of milk by about 25 percent so farmers can cover their costs, according to the European Milk Board (EMB), the protest organizer. Since the European dairy crisis began in 2009, some 157,000 farmers have gone out of business, EMB told Belgian daily La Dernière Heure.
The EMB, which spans 14 countries, also blamed the current dairy crisis on overproduction. Europe is the world’s largest producer of milk, and the EMB says the current overproduction has set the market “on fire.” The board calls on European agencies to douse it.
Media photos of the incident show farmers spraying fresh milk at the Parliament building while riot police attempted to block the stream with their shields. The protesting farmers also set a trailer filled with hay on fire in front of the Parliament building. The EMB said the farmers will not leave until their demands are satisfied.
“They know that if nothing changes, half the agricultural jobs available here soon disappear. Is that we want—to do away with the farmers?” asked prominent farmer Jose Bove, according to De Redactie.
“The fact that so many colleagues from all over Europe came to demonstrate shows how important the future of rural agriculture serving society’s needs is for them,” EMB President Romuald Schaber said in a statement. “This future can only be secured thanks to flexible supply management through a European Monitoring Agency.”
Paolo De Castro, the European Parliament’s chair on the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, met with farmers, but stressed compromise.
“We should work together instead of fighting … because we share a common interest,” he said, according to La Dernière Heure.
After the demonstrators splashed the building with milk last night, De Castro said he postponed a meeting with the farmers. “We saw liters of milk spilled on our windows. However, this is not a positive thing,” he said. “We are working to improve your situation.”
“It’s been three years since you began this rhetoric,” Schaber told De Castro in Brussels to thunderous applause. “We want decisions today, because the next time you have to clean your windows, it will be inside [Parliament].”
The European commissioner for agriculture, Dacian Ciolos, admitted to the farmers on Tuesday that there is no guarantee for “an immediate solution.”
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