Farmers to protest slashing of biofuel subsidies using tractors to slow traffic on country’s roads

Czech farmers on Wednesday will be taking part in a planned protest against the government’s decision to slash tax refunds on biofuel. The move by the government – part of broad austerity measures – is expected to leave agricultural producers in difficult spot: some 1.5 billion crowns lighter. The protest will see hundreds of farmers roll out their tractors on roads across the country, with the exception of highways and the Czech capital.

I spoke to Miroslav Louma of the Agricultural Association of the Czech Republic:

“There are two main reasons for the protest: one is the tax from biofuel as well as the introduction of VAT on wine. Regarding the first matter, biofuel, at the present the position of 12 countries in the EU is still a little unequal compared to the EU 15’s position. But on the whole, biofuel is at the moment already subsidized by 26 of 27 EU members (not Slovakia); if our government eliminates the tax return to out agriculture producers it will only raise production costs and create a further unequal position in comparison to colleagues in the EU 15.”

The decision to slash refunds on biofuel represents a loss of around 1.5 billion crowns, correct?

“Yes, the estimate is between 1.5 and 1.6 billion crowns.”

Could you describe for me a little what is planned for Wednesday’s protest?

“Farmers will drive their tractors not onto highways or the capital but onto primary and secondary roads. They’ll be moving from spot to spot in agricultural or rural areas around the Czech Republic...”

Slowing traffic...

“That’s right. You have to consider that the tractors’ speeds are about 30 kilometres per hour and they don’t even have to go as fast as that. These aren’t exactly high-velocity vehicles! So motorists will have to take into account that traffic will be significantly slowed on some roads.”

Photo: Tomáš AdamecPhoto: Tomáš Adamec Does the government, in your view, ‘hear’ such protests? After all, there have been similar major demonstrations already...

“That’s true. From my perspective at least, I have to say I’d prefer negotiations to continue than to see this kind of protest at the moment.”

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