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Serbian Farmers Block Roads in Protest

Farmers in northern Serbia blocked several roads Monday to protest government plans to cut the agriculture budget.

Members of a farmers' association had said they would drive their tractors to the Ministry of Agriculture and other government buildings in Belgrade. But Serbian authorities dispatched police and security forces to prevent them from reaching the capital.

News reports from the region say several thousand tractors clogged main roads in the Vojvodina region, with the biggest blockade near the town of Pančevo, northeast of Belgrade.

The farmers' association, which calls itself "100 P Plus," accuses the government of reneging on its promise last year to increase budget funds to help farmers. It says the government is instead planning to cut the already meager funds.

The government adopted a budget Monday that entitles registered farm households to subsidies of about $200 per hectare, the same amount as last year. But the government has limited the size of subsidized land to 10 hectares. The measure is acceptable to small farmers, but not to the owners of large farms.

Deputy Minister of Agriculture Milos Milovanovic expressed dismay over the farmers' protest, telling the Tanjug news agency that the new measures are aimed at boosting agriculture and animal farming, and that the ministry has discussed the plans with farmers every step of the way.