A farmer's protest last month in France blocked the road with waste. Getty Images
"Make Me Smart” Newsletter

What’s driving farmers to protest in Europe

Ellen Rolfes Feb 9, 2024
A farmer's protest last month in France blocked the road with waste. Getty Images

European farmers are not happy,and they’ve been protesting in at least nine countries. In recent weeks, they’ve dumped manure in public spaces, hurled eggs at government buildings and set up dozens of blockades on major roads and border crossings, calling for more help to eke out a decent living.  
What’s behind the agricultural squeeze? Politico has mapped out grievances country by country, but farmers’ discontent is largely driven by bad weather hurting harvests, cheap imports and higher costs for fertilizer and diesel fuel. Farmers in 11 European nations also saw base prices for their produce drop more than 10% between 2022 and 2023.  
The backlash has Europe backtracking on its climate goals. The EU’s so-called Green Deal aims to make the region carbon-neutral by 2050, but, in an effort to appease angry farmers, leaders in Brussels scrapped plans to tackle agricultural emissions. The European Commission pulled back on a proposal to halve pesticide use across the bloc by 2030 and delayed requirements for farmers to leave parts of their land unused to protect the environment.   
Despite these concessions, protests will likely continue until at least June when European Parliament elections take place.  
American farmers haven’t been as vocal, even though the Department of Agriculture has forecast that farmers’ net incomes will drop by 25.5% this year. Joseph Glauber, a former USDA chief economist, suggests a key difference is that the U.S. uses subsidies, rather than regulation, to encourage farmers to take positive environmental action. 

Smart in a shot

An example of an Instagram post generated with AI shows a model in a mountainous.
A mock-up shows how Meta would label AI-generated images. (Courtesy Meta)

Can you tell the difference between a real image and one produced with artificial intelligence? When some Marketplace staffers took this New York Times quiz (gift link), we were quite dismayed by our failing grades. But we shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves. Researchers have found that a majority people perceive images of hyperrealistic AI-generated faces as more realistic than images of actual people. 
It goes to show how much generative AI has improved in the last few years — you see fewer extra fingers or floating eyebrows. And while a deepfake of Pope Francis in a Balenciaga puffer jacket may make you chuckle, the threat of damaging misinformation is real, especially with more than 50 countries, including the U.S., holding elections this year. 
Meta said this week it would start scanning and labeling all AI-generated images posted on Facebook, Instagram and Threads, including those made with other companies’ AI tools. That should help users, provided the tool works correctly. One professor told the BBC it will be easy for bad actors to evade detection, and users could see a high rate of false positives. Plus, the tool won’t be able to detect text generated by programs like ChatGPT or audio and video content that’s been manipulated or fabricated by AI. 
Meta’s oversight board, which is funded by the company but operates independently, reported Monday that the company’s manipulated media policy is “incoherent.” Meta indicated that it plans to soon update the policy to respond to the evolution and increased use of hyperrealistic AI. 
Want to protect yourself from deepfakes? Here are a few tips to safeguard your privacy and identity.Meta’s oversight board, which is funded by the company but operates independently, reported Monday that the company’s “manipulated media” policy is incoherent and confusing. Meta indicated that it plans to soon update the policy to respond to the evolution and increased use of hyperrealistic AI.  

Want to protect yourself from deepfakes? Here are a few tips to safeguard your privacy and identity.  

The numbers

Can a few Super Bowl ads help beleaguered Bud Light reclaim its place as America’s top-selling beer? Let’s do the numbers. 


Anheuser-Busch created Budweiser Light in 1982, but it was a 1987 Super Bowl ad that propelled the brew into the mainstream. The 30-second spot, featuring a skateboarding, sunglasses-sporting bull terrier named Spuds MacKenzie, helped drive sales up 20%. 


Transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney partnered with Bud Light last April, publishing a sponsored post on her Instagram page, after which conservatives called for a boycott of the brand. By the end of last year, weekly sales of the beer were down 30% compared to the same time in 2022, in part because of the transphobic backlash to the beer’s so-called woke advertising

$5 million 

On Tuesday, former President Donald Trump posted on Truth Social that conservatives should give Bud a “second chance.” Business Insider reported last year that Trump owned as much as $5 million of Anheuser-Busch InBev stock. A Republican lobbyist who works for Anheuser-Busch is also hosting a fundraiser for the 2024 presidential candidate next month. 

100 million 

Bud Light plans to air this commercial during the Super Bowl on Sunday, featuring cameos by former football star Peyton Manning, musician Post Malone and Dana White, CEO of Ultimate Fighting Championship. The ad will run during the third quarter to an estimated audience of 100 million people. 


While Super Bowl ads can increase the buzz around a brand, the impact can be short-lived. Research published by the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management  in 2022 found that brands that advertise during the big game saw a 68% increase in word-of-mouth marketing on that day, but the gains dropped to just 16% over the full month after the ads aired. 

None of us is as smart as all of us

Tell us what’s making you smarter at smarter@marketplace.org. We’d love to include your recommendation in a future newsletter.

$15 million is cheap 

Editor Virginia K. Smith is reading a Vulture article on how the “Godzilla Minus One” team pulled off Oscar-worthy visual effects on a relatively small budget. 

Breakthrough technologies  

Writer Ellen Rolfes (hi!) is reading an Economist article about why higher education expansion hasn’t led to boosts in productivity. Companies may just be bad at applying academic breakthroughs. 

Meet Belinda Román 

Producer Marissa Cabrera is reading a Wall Street Journal article about the publication’s most accurate economic forecaster for 2023. She’s a professor at a small Catholic university in Texas, and she shares her bullish predictions for 2024. 

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