Can American politicians learn from European politicians?  And if so, what message can they take home from our political counterparts in Europe?  As I write this column we see politicians in France, Germany, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, and Ireland are experiencing protests against policies adopted by the European Union, many of which are the Union’s efforts to address climate concerns.   Articles from Germany indicate that the politicians are trying to find a way to pay for their climate agenda and decided to remove tax refunds on diesel fuel to their farmers.  This may have been the last straw for those folks because they immediately began protesting this proposal, but they also are protesting other costly rules and regulations.  Farmers in France are also protesting the EU driven rules as well as rules adopted by their own governing body that added to their costs.  Of course, farmers in the Netherlands have seen the actions by their government to reduce the number of dairy cattle by a significant number.   The Irish have also taken a page from the Dutch handbook.  Spain and Portuguese farmers are also protesting the costly regulations.

The question US policy makers should be asking themselves is what did the EU do wrong that upset the very food producers that help keep their citizens fed?  

Unfortunately, the solutions some in the ag community are proposing for these problems appear to be to demand more support from the taxpayers to offset these ill-conceived policies.  As I’ve mentioned before, he who has the gold rules and to seek a solution that keeps you even more indebted to those government officials who hold the purse strings starts you on a dangerous path.  

Want to get those pesky independent farmers under your thumb, propose a policy that will be costly for them to implement and then when they complain, suggest the solution would be to pay them for some of those costs.  Then once those funds come to the farmer, start to put conditions on the funds.   “Sure, we’re glad to help you out, if you just change the way you’re currently doing things.” “What’s that you say, it doesn’t make sense and will be costly?  Sure, but then we’re paying you for it.”  Then next year there will be another set of conditions.   Bureaucracies are, if anything, patient.   If you can’t get what you want today, be patient and try it again next year.

The first thing these politicians should do is to roll back the laws and their subsequent rules that led to the costs in the first place.  However, this solution is rarely contemplated and is certainly resisted by many of those politicians as well as the bureaucracies that were charged with carrying out the law. The natural inclination for those politicians is to solve the problem by sending taxpayer money to those whose costs have increased due to the passage of their laws.

So, what lesson will our politicians take home from what’s happening overseas? I can only hope they will resist passing costly laws in the first place, so the people don’t have to protest them.  This means they need to take to heart advice from these farmers about costs.  Given the efforts agriculture expended in trying to prevent adoption of ill-conceived WOTUS rules, which EPA/Army Corp of Engineers ignored, I’m fearful politicians will follow the path of European politicians and just attempt to buy off the unhappy citizens for a little while.