The Agricultural Show Opens its Doors, Farming in France at the Dawn of its Revolution

Finance General News
French President Emmanuel Macron (C) and Minister of Agriculture Stephane Travert (G) visit a farm in Aurieres on January 25, 2018.

The agricultural show opens its doors Saturday, February 24. Emmanuel Macron will visit the largest farm in France, in a context of tension with farmers.

Summoned to reinvent an agricultural model pointed out by the executive, the farming community, weakened by several successive crises, has an appointment with its future, Saturday 24th February during the inauguration of the Agriculture show by Emmanuel Macron.

After protests across the country against the draft free trade agreement between the European Union and the Mercosur countries (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay), the president had already warned 700 young farmers that he received on Thursday at the Elysee he was “completely mocked” the atmosphere in which he would be received Porte de Versailles, focused on the construction of the “face of agricultural France of the next years”.

Unfair competition

The French breeders, represented at the show by the Aubrac “Haute” breed cow, are particularly concerned about the low-rate importation into Europe of 70,000 tonnes of South American beef a year, at reduced customs duties.

They argue the unfair competition of this industrial meat produced at very low cost and health standards and quality much less demanding than in Europe, at a time when the executive encourages the rise of the range of hexagonal farms.

Pronouncing “added value, openness, the planet”, Mr. Macron assured “that there will be never hormone beef in France”, even if agreements like the one with Mercosur were signed , adding “there will be no reduction of our standards of quality, social, environmental, or sanitary through this negotiation”.

French President Emmanuel Macron talks with farmers at the Elysee Palace on 22 February 2018.
French President Emmanuel Macron talks with farmers at the Elysee Palace on 22 February 2018. (© POOL / AFP / Etienne LAURENT)

Not convinced, the boss of the FNSEA Christiane Lambert said Friday that France could “lose 20 to 25,000 farms” if Europe signs these agreements. On Saturday, Mrs. Lambert intends to tell Mr. Macron “very directly (…), eyes in the eye, what is going well and what is not so good”.

Another reason for concern is the revision of the map of disadvantaged agricultural areas, which will remove 1,380 municipalities from the system giving entitlement to a compensatory allowance for natural handicap (ICHN).

360 euros per month

The worries are all the stronger despite the numerous reminders to the order of the government at the end of the States General of Food (EGA) – and meanwhile in September the law supposed to guarantee better remuneration for their production – the big retailers did not play the game in the annual trade negotiations with the producers, which ends during the show.

According to Christiane Lambert, “what happens is the reverse” of the desire expressed by the EGAs to recreate value for farmers. However, in 2016, nearly 40% of farm managers have received a negative monthly income or not exceeding 360 euros, according to the latest statistics from the MSA, the agricultural social security, published Friday.

A farmer drives a cow on the eve of the opening of the Salon de l'Agriculture in Paris on February 22, 2018.
A farmer drives a cow on the eve of the opening of the Salon de l’Agriculture in Paris on February 22, 2018. (© AFP / GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT)Salon de l’Agriculture

Some of Emmanuel Macron’s announcements have nevertheless somewhat reassured the rural world as the promise of setting up “regulatory locks” on the purchase of agricultural land by foreigners in France.

Massive retirements

On the more general problem of access to land for younger generations of farmers, the president asked “for the month of May” that we “imagine” a system of “pre-retirement agricultural with a gradual exit of ‘activity’ to allow a young person to take over from his parents.

“40% of today’s active farmers will retire” by 2020, the president said on Thursday. This is the prospect of a vast plan of early departures for part of the 453,133 operating managers that the country had as of 1 January 2017.

Farmers received these ads in a rather benevolent but apprehensive manner, stating that they would be vigilant about their translation into action.

All the more vigilant since rumors have been raging for several weeks about another form of revolution: a reduction in the budget envelope of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) 2020-2027 after the release of the Grande -Brittany of the European Union.

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