Up to 10,000 protesters along with about 1,000 tractors were expected in the western German city of Bonn, where the German Agriculture Ministry is based.
Protests were due to take place in a total of 17 cities, including Berlin, Munich, Bayreuth, Erfurt, Rendsburg, Hanover, Oldenburg, Stuttgart, Freiburg, Leipzig and Görlitz. They were being organized by the movement “Land schafft Verbindung” (countryside creates connection).
On social media, people posted videos of the tractors in Bonn.
— Moritz Wächter ?? (@MoritzWaech) October 22, 2019
The farmers' protest is against the government's agricultural package, which Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner, of the CDU, and Environment Minister Svenja Schulze, of the SPD, presented at the beginning of September.
A tractor shutting down one of Stuttgart's main streets. Photo: DPA
Among other things, the package stipulates that the weedkiller glyphosate will be banned in Germany by the end of 2023 after a phasing-out period.
The government is also proposing to reduce the nitrate content in ground water by cutting the use of certain fertilizers and liquid manure. The country is under pressure from the EU for exceeding the allowable levels of nitrates in groundwater, which is mainly due to mass livestock farming.
But many German farmers say they are still coping with large amounts of excess nitrate from the past.
There are fears that the agricultural package will endanger family-run farms, according to the Land schafft Verbindung.
Huge traffic disruption
In Bonn, there were already traffic jams on Tuesday morning and disruption to trams, particularly in the Rhein-Sieg district. A rally was expected to take place around 11am at Münsterplatz.
In Berlin around 1,000 farmers from the neighbouring state of Brandenburg were expected, with about 200 tractors in tow.
They were set to demonstrate through the city centre. Drivers or commuters have been urged to avoid the Victory Column and the area around Tiergarten.
Police tweeted about some of the roads and areas affected by the demo.
Eine Demo aus Traktoren und Landmaschinen ist aktuell in Form einer #Sternfahrt auf dem Weg nach #Berlin zum #GroßenStern. Der Konvoi bewegt sich aus Richtung Osten über die #B1
Altonaer Str. https://t.co/x6Cv4dcApG
— Polizei Berlin Einsatz (@PolizeiBerlin_E) October 22, 2019
The farmers are calling on Klöckner and Schulze to discuss current agricultural and climate plans with them so they can have their say.
But the action is also about defending farmers' reputation.
“We are not animal abusers and polluters,” a statement by the Land schafft Verbindung said, German media reported on Tuesday. “The permanent negative mood and the farmer bashing leads to anger and frustration in the profession.”
They added that discrimination and condescending remarks endanger the future of farms and rural areas.