(Bloomberg) -- Farmers honked tractor horns Monday and tried to break through police barriers as they surrounded the main European Union offices in Brussels and demanded more support from the bloc.

The demonstrations — featuring an estimated 900 tractors — are aimed in part at a meeting of EU agriculture ministers. It’s the second major protest in Brussels in recent weeks as farmers complain about bureaucratic hurdles, trade deals, climate-related rules and efforts to help Ukraine sell its grain.

“We need a firm and positive gesture,” Caroline Jaspart, president of the Union of Women Farmers of Wallonia said standing next to the dozens of tractors blocking the road to the European institutions. “The main problem is the income, we don’t have a just price that would allow us to cover the costs. There is the administrative burden, the ignorance of those who make laws, everything changes so quickly that we do not have time to comply.”


Security was tight around the EU offices, with police clad in riot gear. Tractors rushed police barricades in several places, breaking through the razor wire in at least one location, according to videos posted on social media. The area around the building where EU agriculture ministers are meeting on Monday was littered with hay, barley and burning tires.

The tractors carried various slogans, including “I feed you but I die,” “Europe wants us to die” and “Our death is your hunger.” Some tractors also blocked a key intersection providing access to the main Brussels airport.

The EU has been negotiating with the South American nations of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay that make up the Mercosur bloc over a trade agreement that European farmers fear would bring cheap imports from countries with inferior environmental standards.

“Under the Mercosur deal, lots of meat, milk and vegetables come to Europe but we don’t have a level playing field, there is no food safety, they don’t work for environment,” said Stijn Zelderloo, a grain farmer who works 12 kilometers away from Brussels. “You cannot imagine how incredible it will be for the market. The future for us is very bad at the moment.”

Farmers are also lamenting imports from Ukraine, which has to rely on transport routes through neighboring countries after Russia blocked exports from the Black Sea.

“There is a clear problem with the reduction of the import tariffs for Ukraine and massive imports of grain and poultry which depresses the prices,” said Guillaume Van Binst, secretary general of the Federation of Young Farmers. “The measures proposed by the commission are very weak and it is more passing the hot potato to member states.”

The EU has been trying to defuse the farmer protests that have broken out across Europe, taking steps to reduce red tape and delay some rules.

“It can always go more quickly, But we’re already working faster than usually.” David Clarinval, Belgium’s agriculture minister, told reporters Monday. “One can understand the anger of the farmers. One can also understand that some are in a difficult situation. But aggression has never been a source of solutions.”

Several agriculture ministers and EU Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski plan to meet with farmer representatives Monday afternoon to discuss their concerns.


(Updates with size of protest, farmers’ comments starting in the second paragraph)

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