By RAF CASERT

Associated Press

BRUSSELS (AP) -- Farmers say they will turn a Belgian highway white on Wednesday by spilling 3 million liters (3.2 million quarts) of milk to protest low prices which are pushing them toward financial ruin.

Growing frustration with the economic downturn has led to widening protests across the European Union in recent weeks.

On Tuesday, farmers closed Belgian border crossings to the Netherlands and to Germany to push demands for higher prices.

Milk prices have fallen by 40 percent since spring, EU farmers group Copa said, adding that without EU action farmers would lose ¤10 billion ($14 billion). Farmers complain they have had to sell their milk for less than costs and face bankruptcy if the situation continues.

Some milk farmers in France and other EU nations have halted deliveries. The European Milk Board lobby group said that in some countries, such as France, up to 50 percent of milk farmers have joined the movement. The lobby represents some 100,000 milk farmers in the 27-nation bloc.

On Wednesday, the Belgian FUGEA farmers union plans to underline the "catastrophic situation" by dumping millions of liters (quarts) on roads near the southern Belgian town of Ciney.

Such actions tend to divide farmers' unions with some arguing that spilling milk on purpose is unethical and counterproductive.

Most EU nations want to shore up milk prices but they disagree on how to do that. The EU head office opposes a lowering of quotas.

The EU already is providing some help to farmers beyond the billions of euros (dollars) it pays annually to the agriculture sector for projects including early support payments, storage aid and dairy promotion.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

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