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Farmers To The Government: “Send Us Sensible Proposals For Solutions In 14 Days; Otherwise, We Will Escalate The Protests!”

“Before we sit down at the negotiating table again, we demand the following: the immediate withdrawal of the Regulation on the Natura 2000 Management Programme, the immediate withdrawal of the Act Amending the Animal Protection Act, which gives NGO trainees the powers of veterinary inspectors and controllers! Following the withdrawal of the law and the regulation, we request that you send us reasonable proposals for solutions to the remaining issues within 14 days! If this is not complied with, we will not negotiate further, but will intensify our protest activities! Enough is enough!” Slovenian farmers have told the government.

11.45 a.m.: First tractors arrive outside Parliament; people gather to greet them.

12.00 p.m.: More and more tractors are coming, and loud honking can be heard.

12.05 p.m.: The combine harvesters are also coming to the protest.

12.07 p.m.: Anton Medved, President of the Slovenian Farmers’ Union, takes the podium. “I want to point out again that the farmer is the king of his land,” he says to the many protesters.

12.11 p.m.: Our voice is not being heard; our comments are not being taken into account. There is no other way than to say it clearly: no political party brought us here; we are not here because we want more money. “We want to keep our right to farming!” says Medved to loud applause. “We demand a fair agricultural policy.”

12.15 p.m.: “Why doesn’t the state care about food security?” Medved stresses the importance of home-grown, quality food. “If we are not heard, we will continue to escalate the protests. We are warning the government that it needs to find solutions. Enough is enough!”

12.17 p.m.: Borut Florjančič, President of the Slovenian Cooperative Union, points out that the first objective of agriculture is food. He also points out that representatives of the union were not invited to the drafting of the Strategic Plan.

12.18 p.m.: Slovenia is the only country in Europe to have introduced a coercive regime in a Natura 2000 area, putting many farms at risk; and no one has bothered to think of what the consequences will be. Slovenian officials are blindly complying with what Europe wants, thus taking away the future of Slovenian farmers. Enough is enough, says Florjančič.

12.21 p.m.: Irena Ule, President of the Slovenian Female Farmers’ Union, says that farmers support the union’s demands. “We are very bothered by the way society sees us, by the way, the government sees us. Some people think we are lazy …”

12.24 p.m.: We are the guardians of the countryside, cultivating the hillsides while shopping centres grow on the plains, Ule points out. Let us work, let us live, says Ule, and on the verge of tears, she mentions that young people are leaving these unpromising environments. “Action must be taken now. We want to do honest work, but we cannot continue like this. Enough is enough.”

12.27 p.m.: Roman Žveglič: “In chess, the farmer is sacrificed first. But only the farmer can replace the queen.” It is essential to involve farmers in agricultural policy. Producing safe food is and must be a national interest. Slovenian agriculture, with its small farms, is the most environmentally friendly agriculture in Europe, he points out.

12.30 p.m.: “We are being controlled in every possible way, and now we will even be controlled by hastily trained animal lovers.”Enough experiments on our land, enough experimenting with our patience! Long live the Slovenian farmer, long live Slovenian agriculture!” Žveglič concludes.

12.51 p.m.: Florjan Peternel, a farmer from the vicinity of Ilirska Bistrica, is the next to speak: “I farm in an area where there are too few arable fields, where we are struggling with this poor land to produce the food that feeds us, that feeds our families. There is a lot of land that used to be arable land, where we used to grow food in the traditional way. Today, unfortunately, these fields have been turned into grazing land.” He adds that they will not be allowed to plough these areas and use them as arable land, because officials demand this and thus prohibit them from doing better work. The ban on ploughing and cultivation puts farmers in a no-win situation, which reduces the possibility of developing farms and makes agricultural rotation impossible, leads to a reduction in food self-sufficiency, restricts the disposition of ownership of agricultural land without the right to compensation, and reduces economic production. They want to grow food in a traditional, environmentally friendly way, and tell the government not to restrict them further where game and wild animals already do.

1.06 p.m.: Two young farmers, Janko Lekše, also a European champion in diatonic accordion, from Škocjan, and Mitja Penca, from Šentjernej, who also plays the diatonic accordion, play together – they play the song “V dolini tihi” (“In the Silent Valley”). The audience accompanies them with singing.

1.17 p.m.: Farmers highlight another one of their demands, namely – “Stop new taxes.” Additional tax pressures on the farmers limit the development of farms and will hit farming families hard. Marko Kreft, a farmer from Prlekija, reminds us of this. “Taxes will not feed anyone, but they will make food even more expensive for the Slovenian consumer,” he warns. The government talks a lot about young people but has forgotten about young people in rural areas. And the government does not realise that food security depends on agriculture.

1.22 p.m.: A young farmer from Kozina, Domen Benčina: “Dear Slovenian and European political sour cream. Where is the freedom if you restrict us farmers more and more every year with restrictive legislation and unlimited bureaucracy? Where is democracy if all our words are smoothly ignored, and you treat us like the least important people there are? Where is equality if you take airplanes to environmental congresses, concerts, and holidays without any bad conscience, and accuse us farmers, who spend our lives in stables, fields and orchards for the good of all, so that you have something to eat, of being the main culprits of climate change!”

1.30 p.m.: Gregor Kolar, a livestock farmer from Haloze: “We demand the immediate abolition of taxation in the areas with more difficult conditions for agricultural production! Who among the young will still have the will to farm? This leads to the abandonment of agriculture in these areas, the overgrowth of farmland, the loss of biodiversity and the loss of agricultural landscapes. At the same time, recreation and leisure spaces will be lost.”

1.35 p.m.: Damjana Žampa, a young farmer from the lower Podravje region, sings the song “Kmet je kralj” (“The Farmer is King”) with piano accompaniment.

1.42 p.m.: Primož Pevec, a farmer from Slatina near Ponikva: “Everything was created with a real purpose, creation is a miracle, but this miracle is losing its real meaning. The meaning is being lost because of all kinds of interests, ideas and experiments. The farmer has to adapt his entire life to it. For some time now, animals and humans have shared a common habitat under the sun… Ensuring food security has been the cornerstone of development… The profession has been working on solutions, and the response of farmers followed slowly. The food supply of the population grew, but so did dissatisfaction! When you are full, you think differently!” However, some people’s thinking is also wrong, and they declare livestock farming to be unnecessary. But animal excrements end up in meadows, and the nutrients are absorbed by the plants. It is absurd to claim that livestock farming is responsible for all greenhouse gas emissions and pollution. It is a distortion of the truth. “Livestock farming is and will be part of the solution for the future if we want to continue living in paradise under Triglav! For centuries we have preserved nature with the help of animals and brought it to this point, which many envy, but special, higher and incomprehensible interests take away our strength and energy to overcome everyday tasks! But we will not give up and let go, and we will not sell out! Enough of this!”

2.00 p.m.: Farmers are also demanding a reduction of the wild animals and game population to the carrying capacity of the environment and the continued effective management of wild animals and game. They demand changes immediately. Why this is urgent, a mountain organic farmer who lives above Kokra and farms at an altitude of over a thousand metres, explains to the audience. Stanislav Bergant: “We are rapidly approaching the summer grazing season, when the cattle are put out to pasture. It is high time to give a warning to politicians that this cannot go on, that this ignorance towards the spread of bears and wolves in Slovenia must stop.” In mountainous, marginal and hill areas, he adds, beasts are a threat that could lead to the abandonment of farming and the transformation of Slovenia’s natural and cultural heritage into the wilderness of a few centuries ago. Farming in these areas is a challenge in itself, and the carnage caused by the beasts is an additional psychological and demotivational blow for farmers, many of whom give up and stop farming. “No farmer will keep domestic animals to feed wolves!”

The dispersed nature of farming makes it impossible to isolate carnivores in dense forests, so contact and conflict with domestic animals and humans is inevitable, and coexistence with carnivores is utopian. He calls on the Court of Audits to find the hole where millions of public money have gone, causing pain and misery to citizens instead of progress. He also points out that beasts are forcing grazing animals back into stables, which prevents extensive farming and is contrary to European agricultural policy. They demand that the state, as the owner of the public land, compensate them for the costs. The animal defenders do not care about the suffering of livestock destroyed by beasts, nor that beasts are a threat to humans. The authorities are mindlessly supporting special interest ‘nature conservation groups,’ whose actions are causing the countryside to die by turning the wolf into a dangerous stray dog and the Caucasian bear into a rat scavenging through rubbish bins. “We have had enough of this!”

2.05 p.m.: Marijan Papež, farmer, poet, beekeeper, and journalist from Logatec: “No nation can progress if it does not understand that there is as much dignity in cultivating a field as there is in writing a poem.”

2.08 p.m.: Franc Jagodič, a cattle farmer from Jakob near Šentjur, a father of three children, who teaches them respect for animals at every step: “Enough of these stupid laws that make our lives more difficult, both for farmers and for all citizens. Enough of these laws that are written for individuals, for interest groups, etc. Enough of laws that divide us, that are written by NGOs, that do not work for the benefit of farmers and everyone else, and that NGOs use to regulate their funding.” Farmers condemn any kind of torture and mistreatment of animals, and animals must be properly cared for, and this must be regulated in a sensible and professional way. “As breeders, we know our animals and the behaviour of each animal best, and we know that good things always come back to those who do good – especially when it comes to animals! The way the legislator wants to solve the problem is not acceptable to us!” Farmers cannot allow a law to lead to the complete dismantling of the profession and its institutions, both in veterinary medicine and in livestock farming. Animal rights activists with a 40-hour course must not be allowed to become commissioners, animal protection advisers, and to have powers higher than those of the inspection services. Farmers are therefore calling for the controversial law to be withdrawn. “Only a shoemaker should judge the shoes!”

2:15 p.m.: The Pohorje Choir sings “Lepo je res na deželi!” (“It is really beautiful in the country!”)

2:20 p.m.: Petra Marko, a young farmer from the vicinity of Maribor (she is a fruit grower and arable farmer), who sells all her produce at Maribor markets, explains why farmers demand that Slovenia’s food security be a priority and why it should not be subordinated to environmental adventures. Among other things, farmers are also demanding fair prices for producer farmers. Marko: “Dear Slovenians, we live in a time when food is a commodity, which we take for granted. But food produced in Slovenia has never been taken for granted. We, farmers, have to fight fair for quality production on Slovenian soil… Difficult-access areas, small farms and strict measures worsen the competitive position on the market and put a strain on the farm workforce.” She also points out that we do not realise how much quality food Slovenian farmers produce on such a small piece of land, but still not enough to meet the needs of the consumer. “Local, fresh, homemade, quality! That’s Slovenian food! Don’t our citizens deserve to eat food produced on our land?” Slovenian farmers respectfully and carefully sell produce they have previously grown themselves at markets. Young people want to preserve this tradition. Slovenia is not self-sufficient in terms of food, so farmers wonder why Slovenia has to have stricter measures than the rest of the EU. There are also far fewer farm takeovers in Slovenia than in the EU. Bureaucrats are clearly only in it to write laws and are far removed from the real problem. “Young farmers are proud to say, ‘I am a farmer!’ We young farmers are enthusiastic, but our love for Slovenian land is slowly fading away due to increasingly stringent measures! We will not go along with every idea and regulation you come up with! We young people are educated and know how to use common farming sense, so we will not allow you to underestimate our work! Listen, us young people have had enough!”

2.25 p.m.: Farmers continue to call for a rejection of the regulation on the use of plant protection products at a national level. This regulation also poses a major risk of completely ending the cultivation of fruit and vegetables. Boris Orešek, a farmer and fruit grower from Sevnica: “In the worst case scenario, this means up to half less food and animal feed! Let’s not forget that we are only able to provide enough food for the entire population on our land with the introduction of chemistry in agriculture!” He points out that groundwater is not at risk and that water is drinkable from all taps. In addition, the use of artificial fertilisers has been greatly reduced in recent years, which is having a major impact on groundwater. “We have done our part! But there is a significant pollutant in the Ljubljansko and Sorško polje – paracetamol and illicit opiates! The overfed Europe forgets the lessons of the past.” He points in particular to the pests that in the past brought about the destruction of parts of the agricultural industry and the resulting social catastrophes, which led to mass emigration to America. Today, Slovenian production is threatened by food that is highly environmentally controversial, and production relies on modern-day slavery. By not using pesticides, we are also threatened by the uncontrolled and dangerous proliferation of insects, such as the dangerous tiger mosquito.

2.45 p.m.: Anton Medved: “Before we sit down at the negotiating table again, we demand the following: the immediate withdrawal of the Regulation on the Natura 2000 Management Programme, the immediate withdrawal of the Act Amending the Animal Protection Act, which gives NGO trainees the powers of veterinary inspectors and controllers! Following the withdrawal of the law and the regulation, we request that you send us reasonable proposals for solutions to the remaining issues within 14 days! If this is not complied with, we will not negotiate further, but will intensify our protest activities! Enough is enough!”

Domen Mezeg

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