Thousands of farmers protested in the streets of Brussels Monday, throwing eggs and stones at police in a protest demanding emergency aid to offset falling agricultural prices. The daylong protests continued outside the building where European Union agriculture ministers gathered to discuss an aid package of more than $550 million meant to help struggling farmers, the New York Times reported.
The ministers were unable to reach agreement on how the money should be divided, and agreed to meet again Tuesday in Luxembourg, frustrating farmers who have struggled amid falling prices for milk, pork and other agricultural products.
“It's always challenging [to agree on distribution] but I don't expect any major challenges because everybody recognized the need to solve the problems as soon as possible," EU Commissioner Jyrki Katainen said, EU Observer reported.
Tractors Take Over Brussels as Farmers Demand EU Action http://t.co/UYk6VzcF5Q
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Katainen said the aid package was intended to help provide new funding to national governments, and said European farmers would be able to receive a larger portion of their subsidies as an advance by mid-October. National governments would decide how the money was to be distributed as each country has its own unique agricultural needs.
There were proposals Monday to link the agricultural sector struggles with the growing number of refugees and migrants arriving to Europe. A press statement by the commission said: “There are ways of addressing the nutritional needs of refugees, for example through the distribution of dairy products,” hinting it could boost the EU's agricultural sector.
Some have blamed the prices on a decision earlier this year by the EU to end a quota system on dairy products. But international politics are at play as well as Russian President Vladimir Putin banned imports of European produce, reacting to sanctions placed on Russia for its annexation of Crimea. And a drop in demand from China as a result of its economic slowdown coinciding with an increase in production in the U.S. and New Zealand has led to an oversupply in that sector.