Angela Merkel crisis: Hundreds of furious farmers storm Berlin on tractors to protest law

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Hundreds of farmers drove to central Berlin on Tuesday to protest against Mrs Merkel’s ‘insect protection’ draft law. The bill aims at banning all herbicides and insecticides in national parks as well as phasing out the weedkiller glyphosate by the end of 2023.

The legislation also limits the use of pesticides near major bodies of water, but the final version of the text leaves it up to Germany’s individual states to set out detailed requirements.

Defending the legislation, German Environment Minister Svenja Schulze said: “People can’t live without insects.

“This is good news for insects and the future of our ecosystems.”

But angry farmers across the country are asking for the legislation to be adapted to modern practices.

A 28-year-old farmer, Wilke Luers, said at the protest: “We’re not against insect protection, but it needs to be adapted to modern agricultural practices.”

A sign fixed to a tractor demonstrating near the Brandenburg Gate read: “No farmers, no food, no future.”

Agriculture Minister Julia Kloeckner said some crops grown in protected areas would be exempt from the tougher rules, and there would be exceptions for vineyards.

But in a stern warning to Mrs Merkel, the German Farmers’ Association (DBV) said the legislation could slash available agriculture land by seven percent.

DBV President Joachim Rukwied slammed the plans as “shortsighted” and a “bad signal for the cooperation between the agricultural industry and nature conservationists”.

He said: “The legislation poses an existential risk to many farming families.”

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He is calling for measures built around incentives instead of bans.

Agriculture Minister Kloeckner on Wednesday pledged “financial support” and compensation for farmers affected by the insect protection plans, without giving detailed figures.

She also said the government would co-finance the purchase of so-called precision farming equipment, which can distribute fertiliser and pesticides more accurately, reducing the amount used.

The bill was first proposed in 2019.

A large-scale study in Germany in 2017 was one of the first to raise global alarm bells about the plunge in insect populations, triggering warnings of an “ecological apocalypse”.

The study found that, measured by weight, flying insect populations across German nature reserves had declined by more than 75 percent in 27 years.

This was not the first time the Chancellor was hit by protesters over her government’s agricultural proposals.

Last month, farmers, climate change protesters and animal rights activists gathered in Berlin for an annual demonstration.

Dubbed the ‘We’ve had enough’ march, aimed at denouncing Mrs Merkel’s agricultural policies and demanded and end to industrial agriculture.

A spokesperson for the march, Saskia Richartz, said: “The government’s agricultural policy is based on cheap, mass production, with far too many animals locked up in small stables.

“We call for an overhaul of agricultural policy in favour of rural agriculture.”

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