Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Extraordinary story of French farmer behind recent blockade in Southern France

Catherine Porter reported for the New York Times last week under the headline, "The Farmers' Protests Have Become a Wildfire.  He was the Spark."  The "he" is Jerome Bayle, and this story is largely about the 42-year-old former professional rugby player who has been running his family's farm since his father died by suicide in 2015, at age 61.  

The story's lede is catchy, for sure, and presents a real contrast between rural and urban: 
Jérôme Bayle had spent seven nights on a major French highway, leading a group of aggrieved farmers in protest, when the prime minister arrived, dressed in his Parisian blue suit and tie, to thank them for “making France proud” and announced he would meet their demands.

Before camera flashes and outstretched microphones, Mr. Bayle told Prime Minister Gabriel Attal that he had seen the standoff as a match between two teams — the revolting farmers, led by Mr. Bayle, and the government, led by Mr. Attal.

“I don’t like losing,” said Mr. Bayle, dressed decidedly more casually, with a baseball hat on his head, turned backward. The thick crowd around him chuckled. It was clear his team had won.

Then there is this bit, which provides a wider-angle perspective: 

More broadly, not just in France but all around Europe, farmers are complaining about rising costs from inflation and the war in Ukraine. Those burdens have been exacerbated as the governments look to save money by shaving farm subsidies, even as the European Union heaps more regulations on farmers to meet climate and other environmental goals.

You can hear Porter's further commentary on Bayle and his victory on the NYTimes audio of this story. 

Regarding the wider European angle, here's news yesterday of a Spanish farmer blockade. 

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