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Fearing lost subsidies, farmers attempt to slow traffic around French capital in new protest

A "go-slow" protest by farmers on roads around Paris flopped Thursday when police blocked access to the major highways into and out of the capital.

Most traffic flowed smoothly despite the bid to tie up traffic to protest a feared loss of subsidies by cereal growers.

The autumn protest season in France has brought a particularly bumper crop of demonstrations this year. Hardly a day goes by without some group — truck drivers, students, farmers, trade unionists — marching about issues ranging from jobs to taxes and pensions.

Much of this is business as usual of course in a country proud of its rebellious streak.

But with unemployment edging ever higher and the economy shrinking again, the recent protests have taken on a nastier tinge — jeering the president during a moment of silence to honor First World War dead, for example, and smashing toll-collection apparatus on highways.

A spokesman for one of the farmers' organizations taking part in the protest said farmers will keep up their actions until Dec. 10, when the planned European Union agricultural reform is signed.

Farmers fear the reform will lead to a loss of their subsidies.

The transportation ministry said a fireman on his way to work was killed when he crashed into a truck that was stuck in the blockade.

The protest came days after truckers staged a go-slow protest on roads around France to mark opposition to a proposed environmental tax on heavy loads. The government suspended the tax but protest organizers want it canceled entirely.

Earlier this month, protesters donning the red caps that have come to symbolize the anti-tax movement in the largely agricultural western Brittany region briefly disrupted an Armistice Day commemoration on Paris' Champs Elysees. During a wreath-laying ceremony by massively unpopular President Francois Hollande, demonstrators loudly jeered and called for his resignation.