Why are French farmers lighting bonfires across the country?

Hundreds of farmers across France lit "fires of anger" on Monday night to protest their unhappiness about what is happening to their profession.

Why are French farmers lighting bonfires across the country?
Photo: AFP: A burning barricade as French farmers block access to the dairy cooperative Sodiaal during a protest against the plunging prices of milk on July 12, 2016 in Le Mans, western France.

The “fires of anger” began to burn at the end of the day on Monday, September 23rd. Responding to the call of the National Federation of Farmers' Unions (FNSEA) and Young Farmers (JA), a few hundred farmers burned pallets, straw bales and stumps to express the agricultural world's “unease”.

Why is it happening?

In a word, pesticides. Or rather the drive to remove them from inhabited areas. The trigger for this action was the recent project to set up non-treatment areas (NTAs) to protect populations from the potential dangers of pesticides. 

“This lit the fuse,” said Damien Greffin, president of the FNSEA Ile-de-France. “The agricultural world is stigmatised on a daily basis.”

“We called them the fires of anger, but also the fires of despair, to make people realise the prevailing unease in the countryside, and the relentlessness that we endure on a daily basis,” said Amandine Muret-Beguin, cereal producer and secretary general of the IDF-Ouest JAs. 

“The NTAs were the last straw. We are already being attacked on a daily basis for our practices, when the government admits that we have the most sustainable agriculture in the world, so it makes no sense,” said Muret-Beguin.

Where did it take place?

In Ile-de-France, fires were lit in half a dozen places, including two in Val-d'Oise, three in Yvelines, and one in Essonne, according to Muret-Beguin.

According to her, at each site, around 20 members of the group maintained the fires throughout the night.


In Essonne, Greffin claimed about 40 people had gathered in the commune of Etampes with ten tractors and they set pallets on fire.


Similar operations were organised in other regions. 

In the Marne, two demonstrations took place in Witry-les-Reims, on the road leading to Charleville-Mézières, with about 70 people according to the FNSEA.


In Haute-Garonne, small groups planned to start fires in fields near around Toulouse, according to Xavier Dayde, Deputy Secretary General of the FNSEA 31.

In the Pas-de-Calais, in Coquelles, near the entrance to the Channel Tunnel, about 70 local farmers lit fires in the field and positioned about 20 tractors around a roundabout, without blocking access.

In Calais, a similar demonstration, without blockages or clashes, took place at the roundabout near the city's hospital.


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France to roll out ID cards app

Technology is being rolled out to allow people to carry their French ID cards in an app form - and could be rolled out to other cards, including driving licences and cartes de séjour residency cards.

France to roll out ID cards app

Holders of French carte d’identité (ID cards) will soon be able to carry certified digital versions of them on their smartphone or other electronic devices, a decree published in the Journal Officiel has confirmed.

An official app is being developed for holders of the newer credit card-format ID cards that have information stored on a chip. A provisional test version of the app is expected at the end of May.

Users will be able to use the ID card app, when it becomes available, for a range of services “from checking in at the airport to renting a car”, according to Thierry Breton, EU Commissioner for the Internal Market.

All French citizens have an ID card, which can be used for proving identity in a range of circumstances and for travel within the EU and Schengen zone – the new app will be in addition to the plastic card that holders already have.

Under the plans, after downloading the app, card holders will need merely to hold the card close to their phone to transfer the required information. According to officials, the holder then can decide what information is passed on – such as proof of age, or home address – according to the situation.

The government has not given any examples of situations in which the app would need to be used, but has set out the main principles and the ambition of the plan: to allow everyone to identify themselves and connect to certain public and private organisations, in particular those linked to the France Connect portal.

READ ALSO What is France Connect and how could it make your life simpler?

Cards will continue to be issued for the foreseeable future – this is merely an extension of the existing system.

Only French citizens have ID cards, but if successful the app is expected to be rolled out to include other cards, such as driving licences, cartes de séjour residency cards or even visas. A digital wallet is being developed at the European level – Member States have until September to agree what it could contain.

READ ALSO Eight smartphone apps that make life in France a bit easier