Farmers' demonstration in Berlin: budget plans on the brink? FDP announces veto against heavy burden on farmers

Farmers want to mobilize in Berlin this Monday to protest against the planned abolition of tax breaks by the traffic light coalition.

Farmers' demonstration in Berlin: budget plans on the brink? FDP announces veto against heavy burden on farmers

Farmers want to mobilize in Berlin this Monday to protest against the planned abolition of tax breaks by the traffic light coalition. A rally at the Brandenburg Gate is planned for 11 a.m. under the motto “Too much is too much.” Federal Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir (Greens) is also expected to speak. The German Farmers' Association is demanding that the government withdraw its plans to abolish regulations on agricultural diesel and vehicle tax exemptions in order to save money in the federal budget. According to the association, numerous tractors will also roll into the capital in protest.

The farmers' association nationwide has also called for the demonstration through its state farmers' associations. Farmers President Joachim Rukwied and other industry representatives want to make their dissatisfaction with the plans clear at the rally. “We farmers will send a first clear signal to the traffic light coalition on Monday,” said Rukwied to the German Press Agency. The proposals for agricultural diesel and vehicle tax would have to be completely withdrawn. "If not, there will be massive resistance from January onwards. We will not put up with that," emphasized the farmers' president.

According to the association, almost a billion euros would be withdrawn from agriculture. So far, farms have been able to get a partial refund of the energy tax for diesel. In addition, agricultural and forestry vehicles are exempt from vehicle tax.

The FDP parliamentary group in the Bundestag announced on Sunday that it would veto the traffic light leaders' plans to abolish tax breaks for farmers. “The FDP parliamentary group does not consider the heavy burden on agricultural businesses to be acceptable,” said FDP parliamentary group leader Christian Dürr to the German Press Agency in Berlin. He added: "Too often people talk about supposedly climate-damaging subsidies without looking at the social and economic consequences of abolishing them."

“Above all, our farmers need fair competitive conditions compared to other European countries,” demanded Dürr. “That is exactly what would be at risk if the plans were implemented.” Finance Minister Christian Lindner has “already promised that he can present alternatives to the government if the coalition partners agree.” The FDP leader told the Germany editorial network: "To be clear, I am not a fan of the burden on agricultural businesses." That's why we will have to talk to each other in the government and coalition. “I am open to alternatives,” he emphasized.

Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck (Greens) defended the traffic light plans in the agricultural sector. At the same time, he defended his party colleague Özdemir. “The Federal Chancellor, the Finance Minister and I had to make the decision on agricultural diesel subsidies in the spirit of an overall solution,” Habeck told the dpa. "It wasn't easy and I also know about the hardships. The Minister of Agriculture warned against canceling the agricultural diesel subsidy. Cem Özdemir knows the situation of the farmers and the burden and has made that very clear." Habeck said he also discussed these arguments with his government partners. "But as a result of the Federal Constitutional Court's ruling, we have to make do with less money and limit spending. And the three of us made this decision as part of the overall package."

On Wednesday, after long negotiations with Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) and Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FDP), Habeck agreed on how billions in holes in the federal budget for 2024 and in the climate and transformation fund should be plugged following a ruling by the Federal Constitutional Court. This also includes the cutback plans in the agricultural sector.

CDU leader Friedrich Merz wrote in an email to his supporters that on average, the traffic light plans would "burden every agricultural business with an additional 4,000 euros in taxes per year." The federal government does not want to save money, but is primarily looking for new sources of income. The FDP “promised not to increase taxes”. The Union will “work very hard to ensure that these tax increases do not come,” announced the Union parliamentary group leader.

According to industry information, the profitability of agriculture had recently improved. In the 2022/23 financial year that ended at the end of June, the average profit of the companies rose to a record level of 115,400 euros - an increase of 45 percent compared to the previous year. In view of falling prices for grain, oilseeds and milk, the farmers' association had already expressed pessimism about further business prospects before the traffic light plans were announced.

There was also a large demonstration with thousands of farmers from all over Germany and a long column of tractors in front of the Brandenburg Gate at the end of 2019. At that time, farmers took part in nationwide campaigns to demand more say in new regulations on environmental and animal protection and more appreciation for their industry.