French farmers protest rules limiting nitrate pollution

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Reuters / French farmers are protesting what they see as burdensome environmental regulations linked to European Union targets on water quality.

Environmental rules have become a major grievance in recent years for French farmers, who blame such measures for eroding their competitiveness.

Last week’s protests, including a pre-dawn street blockade near the Farm Ministry in Paris, were triggered by new steps taken by the government to resolve a long-running dispute with the EU’s executive over France’s failure to meet water quality targets under a directive on nitrates dating back to 1991.

The regulations will “lead to the ruin of livestock and grain farmers,” said Christophe Derycke, head of a farm union in Seine-et-Marne area east of Paris.

Farmers from the Paris region, who are known for their eye-catching actions in the capital, blocked an avenue close to the Agriculture Ministry and other government buildings for over an hour, scattering straw and calling for the Agriculture Minister to resign. The government said it is obliged to comply with the EU’s requirements in order to avoid financial penalties for non-compliance with the nitrates directive.

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