France said it would push to ease European Union environmental regulations on fallow farmland this week, as tractors blocked major highways out of Paris on Monday and nationwide farmers’ protests intensified.

The French government on Friday dropped plans to gradually reduce state subsidies on agricultural diesel and promised an easing of environmental regulations, but farmers’ organisations said that was not enough and pledged to step up the pressure.

At a European Union leaders’ summit in Brussels this week, President Emmanuel Macron will make a push for more pro-farming policies to address grievances shared by many farmers in the bloc, French Farming Minister Marc Fesneau said on Monday.

Fesenau said he would also travel to Brussels himself this week, where he would try to soften EU regulations regarding agricultural land that has to remain fallow under new green rules.

Asked on France 2 TV when he wanted to reach an agreement with the European Commission on how to revisit the rules, which French farmers have complained could hurt their businesses, Fesneau said “this week”.

Farmers must meet certain conditions to receive EU subsidies – including a requirement to devote 4% of farmland to “non-productive” areas where nature can recover. That can be done by leaving land lying fallow.

“The Commission is looking at different options at the moment that might respond to some of the concerns expressed by farmers,” an EU official told Reuters, declining to comment on whether these options include amending the fallow land rules.


The head of France’s biggest farming organisation said farmers would block all major highways out of Paris at about 30 kilometres (18 miles) from the centre.

“What we have understood is that as long as the protest is far from Paris, the message is not getting through,” Arnaud Rousseau, head of farmers’ union FNSEA, said on RTL radio.

Rousseau, who said he was due to meet French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal on Monday, added that farmers would continue their action everywhere in France “with the aim to get emergency measures about the core of our business”.

In Brussels too, traffic on the ring road around the Belgian capital was disrupted by angry farmers and about a dozen tractors had made it through to Square de Meeus in Brussels’ EU area where they honked loudly.

Angry farmers stopped about five trucks with Spanish vegetables and dumped the produce near the distribution centre of Belgian retailer Colruyt near Brussels, Belgian media reported.

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said over the weekend that police would intervene if French farmers intercepted trucks carrying Spanish produce.

At Paris wholesale food market Rungis, police vans controlled traffic after some called for the blocking of food supplies to Paris.

“Blocking Rungis is not an option. We are not there to starve the French people, as we want to have the honour of feeding them,” Rousseau said.