Monday, September 7, 2015

A Dairy Protest Gone Horribly Wrong

Sometimes a protest is just the wrong idea. That was especially evident today with the dairy farmer protest today in Brussels. Dairy farms in northwestern Europe produce more milk than Europe could possibly consume. With the persistent overproduction, the milk they produce sells at ruinously low prices. The situation has been getting worse for the farmers in spite of years of warnings about the excess. Dairy farmers do have a reason to complain. The protest today, though, was not just ill conceived, but also ill timed. In the end, it was a protest gone horribly wrong. Europe today is worried about the inflow of people escaping the wars of the eastern Mediterranean and had no interest in hearing wealthy farm owners argue that their subsidies are too low. Drivers and the news media tried to ignore the tractors that tied up traffic until a police officer suffered an injury serious enough to be wheeled away on a stretcher. After that, the water cannons came out and the protestors were lampooned on social media. Under the circumstances, it would be hard for anyone to defend dairy farmers trying to prevent a meeting on the refugee crisis from going forward. Citizens and politicians alike tonight are surely wishing there weren’t so many dairy farmers, and there is a chance they may seize on the idea of phasing out dairy subsidies as a way to correct the imbalance. Of course, that is the opposite of what the dairy farmers were asking for, but it is the right answer in terms of economic and health policy. After today’s action, the dairy farmers’ legislative friends might not be quite so willing to speak out in defense of the subsidies that are at the heart of the problem.