BRUSSELS -- Hundreds of tractors driven by angry farmers protesting a plan to cut nitrate levels converged on Brussels on Friday, creating major traffic disruption in Belgium's capital city.
The BB farmers union and several others combined efforts to gather more than 2,700 farm vehicles, according to Brussels police.
Several major roads in Brussels were closed and police warned that disruptions could last until the end of the day, recommending that people use public transportation instead of personal cars.
The Flemish regional government is struggling to find a deal to cut nitrate pollution over farmers’ objections that it would put many out of business.
Farmers also claim that their trade has to make much deeper cuts than industry and want to see a more equitable spread.
“In the future, I want to have the possibility to continue my dad’s farm," said farmer Brendt Beyens. "But right now I feel like the possibility of that happening is slowly shrinking and it’s getting nearly impossible and the is future looking very tough.”
Negotiations have lingered for weeks and weakened the regional government of northern Belgium to breaking point.
The debate over agricultural pollution is increasingly turning into a political issue in many of the EU’s farming nations. It is to be a focal point of Dutch elections in two weeks’ time and is also affecting Belgium, another EU nation where intensive farming has put environmentalists against the agricultural lobby.