Tractors again shut down Belgian capital as farmers protest

Dairy farmers are protesting at the EU in Brussels, Belgium.
Dairy farmers are protesting at the EU in Brussels, Belgium.
Hundreds of Belgian farmers blocked streets with tractors and faced riot police outside the European Union headquarters building in Brussels Wednesday, demanding price supports for dairy products.

The farmers have been seeking lower production caps they blame for a 50 percent drop in prices over the last year. EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel said farmers should instead be given relief grants and loans, according to a report from the Associated Press.

Fischer Boel said the phasing out of production limits by 2015 has not caused the drop in prices, pointing to the global economy as the source of decreased demand.

The AP reported that farmers caused traffic mayhem across the Belgian capital by obstructing streets with their tractors. Farmers drove their tractors up to lines of riot police ringing the EU building.

Dairy farmers used the same tactic during a meeting of the European Parliament back in May, when hundreds of tractors blocked traffic in Brussels. This week, four German dairy farmers are driving their tractors all the way to the Vatican, where they hope to get an audience with Pope Benedict XVI to plead their case about the low price of milk.

The tractor tactic seems to have reached the U.S. Last month, farmers in California protesting water diversions drove several dozen tractors onto a major freeway.