Police officers follow French President Emmanuel Macron as he tours the agricultural show during the opening day of the 60th International Agriculture Fair (Salon de l'Agriculture), in Paris, France, 24 February 2024. EPA-EFE/LEWIS JOLY /


French farmers fair jeers President Macron, but cheers opposition leader Bardella


Angry farmers stormed Paris’s annual agricultural fair during President Emmanuel Macron’s visit February 24.

Several hundred protestors succeeded in forcing their way in to the fair’s main hall as  Macron arrived at 8 am to speak to leaders of France’s farming unions.

A tense atmosphere saw crowds raising their middle fingers, chanting, and whistling for the president’s resignation, as police moved in with heavy riot gear and brawls broke out.

The police, in heavy riot gear, was forced to move in while never seen before chaos ensued.

Rassemblement National leader Jordan Bardella, who took over from Marine Le Pen in 2022, received a much different reception as crowds queued up to take selfies with him.

Bardella may have had reason to be confident. Polls place his party in first place ahead of June’s European Parliament elections, in which he stands to receive as much as a third of the vote, 10 points ahead of Macron’s coalition.

While the European Union also had a stand at the fair, its presence proved short-lived when protesting farmers tore it down.

Macron, unbowed, said he would meet again with farmers in three weeks.

He spoke for several hours with farming sector representatives, about consequences for farmers of the war in Ukraine, overregulation, and the rise of organic farming.

Farmers asked to hear his vision for their future, saying they say their livelihoods threatened by French and European policies that, in their view, are destroying their profession.

A difficult conversation concerned the suicide rate in the farming sector.

One farmer, who said he had worked 100-hour weeks for years, told President Macron that he had “almost done it” in August. A woman noted that the government does a lot for animal welfare, but nothing for the welfare of farmers.

The president announced that in three weeks he would bring together “all the trade unions, all the agricultural sectors” at the Élysée Palace to respond to farmers’ concerns.

He also told media that he intended for food and agriculture to have legal recognition as a French national interest, with each sector’s cost of production to “serve as a minimum price.”

“We will launch a census in each region of the farms that are in the greatest cash flow difficulties to be able to support them,” he added.

The atmosphere in the Salon International de l’Agriculture was much more calm and pleasant for Bardella, who was able to work round the stands and talk with the fair’s attendants.

Speaking to the press, the RN leader said he was campaigning for economic patriotism and exiting[European] free trade agreements, which appeared music to the ears of many farmers.

During his visit, some of those attending began to sing La Marsellaise and chant “Jordan for President”.

“Our farmers today have a knife to their throat and say they can’t make a living from their work and depend on aid,” said Bardella, adding he understood their “anger”.

Speaking of Macron, he said “no doubt he doesn’t realise the pain and the way he’s running the country anymore.”

Bardella will be leading the National Rally list in upcoming European elections in June.

The annual farmer’s fair, or le Salon International de l’Agriculture, is an annual, week-long exhibition, and the biggest of its kind in France.

Its over 1,000 stand holders receive over half a million visitors in the Porte de Versailles exhibition centre.