french farmer was spark behind widespread protests

Jérôme Bayle had enough of the hardships of French farming, so he blocked a highway with friends. Hundreds of other farmers have followed suit.

Jérôme Bayle had spent seven nights on a major French highway, leading a group of aggrieved farmers in protest, when the prime minister arrived, dressed in his Parisian blue suit and tie, to thank them for “making France proud” and announced he would meet their demands.

Before camera flashes and outstretched microphones, Mr. Bayle told Prime Minister Gabriel Attal that he had seen the standoff as a match between two teams — the revolting farmers, led by Mr. Bayle, and the government, led by Mr. Attal.

“I don’t like losing,” said Mr. Bayle, dressed decidedly more casually, with a baseball hat on his head, turned backward. The thick crowd around him chuckled. It was clear his team had won.

Mr. Bayle, 42, a former professional rugby player, is widely credited with sparking a national protest movement of farmers that this week brought their grievances to the capital, blocking highways into Paris, despite fresh pledges on Tuesday from Mr. Attal to shield them from “unfair competition.”

Mr. Bayle with cattle at his family’s farm. He took over the farm after his father’s death in 2015.Andrea Mantovani for The New York Times

Unsatisfied, the farmers say they will continue the disruptions to call attention to what they call the insufferable hardships of growing food to feed the French nation.

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