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French farmers block Alpine roads over low meat, milk prices

Farmers barricade the highway leading Paris to Lyon in Limonest near Lyon, central France, Thursday, July 23, 2015. Angry French farmers block the famed Mont Saint Michel causeway and highways leading to the Alps, hoping to get more government help for margins they say are being chipped way by cheap imports and pressure from grocery chains. Thursday's protests were a rejection of the government offer to back loans to the farmers and delay tax payments as part of a 600 million euro plan. (AP Photo/Vincent Dargent)

PARIS (AP) — Angry French farmers relented Thursday after a day of protesting low milk and meat prices by blocking roads to Mont Saint-Michel and the Alps — but warned that other agricultural protests are on the horizon.

The farmers used tires, tractors and tree trunks to block roads all around the country a day before many French take to the roads to start their summer vacations.

Mont Saint-Michel, in the northwestern Normandy region, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Tourists were forced to park their cars along the road and walk for several kilometers (miles) to the famous island.

The farmers blocked three major highways for eight hours around the eastern city of Lyon, a gateway to the Alps and the south of France. Traffic backed up 25 kilometers (15 miles) by mid-day.

Some roads in western France, a region with many milk and pork farms, were also jammed.

Farmers say their profits are being chipped way by cheap imports and pressure from grocery chains. Low prices have put about 10 percent of France’s livestock farms on the verge of bankruptcy, according to the government.

Farmers were angry after the French government offered to back loans for farmers and delay tax payments as part of a 600 million-euro ($654 million) agricultural plan but it did not give any direct financial aid in order not to break EU market rules.

Xavier Beulin, president of FNSEA, the main farmers’ union, warned of other possible protests “in the next two to three days.” He said he is willing to immediately work with the government on “long-term and mid-term solutions.”

President Francois Hollande met with farmers and union officials Thursday in Dijon.

“We want supermarket chains to make the necessary effort to pay the farmers,” Hollande said.

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