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Mother dies after taking part in road block at farmer's protest in France

A farmer sits in his truck in Agen, southern France (AFP via Getty Images)
A farmer sits in his truck in Agen, southern France (AFP via Getty Images)

A mother died, with her husband and teenage daughter seriously injured, at a farmer’s protest in France.

The farmer, in her 30s, was reportedly part of a roadblock obstructing traffic on the N20 in the city of Pamiers, in Ariège.

She was reportedly sitting on a haystack when it was hit by a car at 5.45am on Tuesday and she was killed.

The vehicle plowed into straw bales that demonstrators had placed across a road, hitting the three people before it came to a stop against a tractor's semi-trailer, prosecutor Olivier Mouysset said in a statement.

The three who were in the car have been questioned on suspicion of involuntary manslaughter.

But Mr Mouysset said early investigations do not suggest the crash was intentional.

Farmers in France are demonstrating to put pressure on the government to change wages, red tape, fuel taxes and the effects of EU-enforced environmental regulations.

French farmers block the A16 highway with their tractors and hay bales (REUTERS)
French farmers block the A16 highway with their tractors and hay bales (REUTERS)

Luc Smessaert, who helped organise the blocking of the A16 motorway near Beauvais, north of Paris, said: "They have completely forgotten that behind this job, there are women and men who need to make their living, to be proud again.”

Arnaud Gaillot, head of the Jeunes Agriculteurs (Young Farmers) union, said: "We won't lift the roadblocks as long as the prime minister does not make very concrete announcements ... The time of talking is over, action is needed.”

The protests, heading into a second week after spilling over from neighbouring countries, come as campaigning for European Union elections gathers pace.

The unrest is the first major challenge for France’s new Prime Minister Gabriel Attal.

Commenting on the accident in the National Assembly, Mr Attal said "all of rural France is in grief today", adding he would meet with all bodies representing farmers' interests on Tuesday and in the coming days.

Agriculture Minister Marc Fesneau said the woman died "while defending her profession". He cancelled his trip to an EU meeting in Brussels to travel to the site.

President Emmanuel Macron said: "To our farmers: I asked the government to be fully mobilised to deliver concrete solutions to the difficulties you face.”

Farming policy has always been a sensitive issue in France, the EU's biggest agricultural producer, where thousands of independent producers of meat, dairy, wine and other produce have a record of staging disruptive protests.

Mr Macron is wary of farmers' growing support for the far right ahead of the European Parliament elections in June, with Marine Le Pen's Rassemblement National party leading in the polls.