June 18, 2009

Dairy farmers tie up traffic in Brussels

Dairy farmers in Belgium rode tractors into the European Union capital Thursday, tying up Brussels traffic to protest falling milk prices.

The EU Observer said between 500 and 1,000 tractors held up traffic as they headed toward the Parc de Cinquantenaire. Traffic delays were reported on several roads, as farmers rode three abreast into the city, the report said.

Police met the protesters with barricades and parked armored vehicles. A summit of EU leaders is scheduled in Brussels starting at 5 p.m.

The demonstration has government approval so long as the farmers stay at least 300 feet from the meeting.

We demand that the heads of state and government put the catastrophic situation of the milk market at the top of their priorities, said Romuald Schaber, head of the European Milk Board.

Farmers have been protesting a 30 percent drop in milk prices that have occurred while store prices have remained stable.

In addition, farmers want milk production quotas reinstated. The EU plans to phase out milk quotas through 2015, the EU Observer reported previously.

An EU official said the protest would probably not affect the meeting, which follows an agenda set six weeks in advance.