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The country comes to town - and leaves the political class looking embarrassed. Catalonia's rebellious farmers have joined a Catalan parliamentary debate this Tuesday, in order to stand up for the demands of their sector. After weeks of protests, in which tractors have been seen blocking streets in Barcelona and dozens of highway closures around Catalonia, the representatives of four agricultural and livestock organizations have had the opportunity to make themselves heard in Parliament. Meanwhile, outside the chamber, a hundred demonstrators sounded cowbells and buzzed a chainsaw as a sign of protest and support for their fellow protagonists. And, despite the fact that at some points the speeches were proactive and seeking complicity with the Catalan government and the parties, on occasions they were much tougher and hit the political class hard.

Imma Puigcorbé, from Plataforma Pagesa ("Farmers' Platform"), was the most forceful, pointing the finger at all the parliamentary representatives and not sparing anyone from criticism. After asserting the value of the protests of the sector in recent weeks and the victories achieved recently, she blamed the politicians for the grievances of agriculturists and livestockers. "For the bad management that they have carried out for decades with nefarious policies that have left the farm sector walking a tightrope", she lamented, also accusing the parties of a "lack of action" that has led many professionals to leave the rural sector.

In her argument, she placed on the table some of the demands already made by the farmers, such as a reduction in bureaucracy by avoiding information duplication and the auditing of their activities. The anger became even clearer with regard to the drought situation, arguing that they are suffering the most aggressive water restrictions despite being the "most conscientious" sector. And in this regard she was directly critical of the Catalan Water Agency (ACA) and its "plunder of the Ter and Muga rivers", as well as "the concession of large quantities of water to companies such as ICL of the Bages [an Israeli mining multinational] and the famous Hard Rock", the casino-based mega-leisure project which is key in Catalan budget negotiations. This is why the rural sector has already asked for a restructuring of the ACA so that their industry has "weighting and representation" on the body. It is not surprising, then, that her speech attracted the almost exclusive applause of the CUP and the Comuns.

Rerpesentants d'entitats de pagesos al Parlament en el ple sobre pagesia Carlos Baglietto
Representatives of farmers' organizations in the Parliament in the plenary session / Photo: Carlos Baglietto

Conciliatory messages, but not pacifist

The other speeches did not make such a strong impact, but they also reclaimed the demands of the sector: speakers were Ramon Sarroca, president of the Federació de Cooperatives Agraries, Joan Carles Massot, president of  Joves Agricultors i Ramaders, and Joan Caball, national coordinator of Union of Farmers. There was further criticism of the "long-standing" red tape as well as water restrictions that have "blamed and criminalised" the sector. But also because of the aging population and the "unfair competition" of products originating outside the European Union and that only have to comply with looser regulations. "Minister, it's time to take stock of what's happening, it's not time to step aside or resign", they remarked, in a conciliatory message. But there was no shortage of warnings: "If you want a rich country with food sovereignty, you have to get to work."