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French farmers urged to stop road protests after fireman's death

French farmers urged to stop road protests after fireman's death
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The French government has called on farmers to lift road blockades immediately after two separate accidents which killed a fireman and left six police officers injured.

The farmers’ go-slow operation around Paris is in protest at EU agricultural reforms.

The Val d’Oise prefecture said the 28-year-old fireman’s vehicle had struck the back of a lorry which had been halted by the blockades.

“This accident is indirectly linked to blockades, to slowdowns that were organised. Therefore I now call on everyone to act responsibly. Through this event everybody must measure the conditions in which all this happens. I repeat: people must act extremely responsibly” said Agriculture Minister Stéphane Le Foll.

One farming union, the FDSEA in Ile-de-France, said the man’s death had “nothing to do with” its action as the accident happened a kilometre away from the barricade.

“We deny all responsibility (for the accident),” a farmers’ official told fellow protesters. “It’s particularly unpleasant for the state to use this (event) in this way.”

The changes to the Common Agricultural Policy, approved by the European Parliament on Wednesday, will see more EU funds go towards livestock at the expense of cereal farms, which are common in the countryside around Paris.

The government admits the latter stand to lose 25 percent of the funds they receive under the CAP, but says it has to think of French agriculture as a whole.

“It’s a major political choice: fewer subsidies for cereal farmers indicates increased support for livestock farmers who have been suffering serious difficulties for a long time,” Le Foll told Le Figaro. “I accept the balancing which has been done in favour of these producers.”

The newspaper says figures from the National Agriculture Accounts Commission (CCAN) show that the average income of farms in the Ile-de-France region around Paris was 97,800 euros last year, five times more than the amount earned by those in the Limousin in southwest France.

The French Europe Ecology MEP José Bové, himself no stranger to farmers’ protests, described the blockades by the cereal farmers from the Parisian basin as “irresponsible, indecent”.

France is the principal beneficiary of the CAP. In 2011 it was accorded 8 billion euros in direct subsidies, 20 percent of the overall community budget.

The country has obtained a package worth 64 billion euros for agriculture from the 2014-2020 European budget, a cut of two percent compared to Germany’s seven percent reduction.