Thousands of angry German farmers brought cities to a standstill in recent weeks. Now, Chancellor Angela Merkel is trying to ease their concerns about new regulations aimed at protecting the environment and animals.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel held talks on Monday with some 40 agricultural organizations to find measures to alleviate their concerns over the government's agricultural reform package.
The package foresees a reduction in the use of pesticides and insecticides. It also includes plans to limit the use of fertilizers to tackle nitrate pollution in groundwater and ban the controversial weed killer glyphosate by 2023 to protect insect populations.
But furious farmers say the environmental protection measures go too far and pose an existential risk to their farms.
Read more: Germany's farmers protest for their future
Speaking at the "Agricultural Summit," Merkel admitted on Monday that new responses are needed in many areas.
"We want to do that with you, not against you," she told the assembled representatives. She said that agriculture is "a very important part of society, but noted a "dramatic problem in terms of biodiversity" in the agricultural sector.
Why are the farmers angry?
Moving forward, dialogue between farmers and politicians is planned for the new year. But after months of discontent, many farmers are angry at the government's handling of regulation.
"We can't continue like this, as overregulation is the last thing we need," a farmer from the Nordhorn area near the German-Dutch border told DW last week. "We are not willing to accept what those at the top want us to do without consulting us first."
Many also say they are fed up with "agri-bashing," or perceived public hostility toward farmers, which they say has cast them as villains in the fight against climate change. Farmers' grievances also include free trade agreements they say put them at a disadvantage.
How long have farmers been protesting?
Since mid-October, angry farmers have staged demonstrations in a number of cities across the country.
Last week, police said more than 5,000 tractors rolled into the capital Berlin for a protest, leading to convoys as long as 20 kilometers (12 miles) on some roads.
Germany's Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner defended the government's measures, aimed in part at bringing the country in line with EU regulations, but said she understood the farmers' frustrations.
"Consumers keep expecting farmers to do more, but are increasingly less willing to pay more for it," she told ARD broadcaster last week, calling for more appreciation for the industry.
She said she would push for a series of meetings with farmers, retailers and government representatives aimed at reducing special offers and ultra-low prices that sell staple foods at prices that are unsustainable for farmers.
Farmers have also taken to the streets in France and the Netherlands with similar complaints.
sri, ed/ng (dpa, AP, AFP)