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Macron plans to solve all the problems of French agriculture with a law



To stop the recent downturn in French agriculture, get ready for digital and ecological changes, and address the pressing problems brought up by the ire of farmers in recent months. This is the weighty mission of the agricultural orientation bill, which has been delayed many times and has been finally presented to the Council of Ministers on April 3. On April 9, 2022, French President Emmanuel Macron announced the bill as the “great agricultural law” of his five-year term. The challenges ahead are considerable.

Over a third of farmers will be retiring within the next ten years. Succession is complex and costly, and vocations are not so numerous. French farms need to modernize and regain their competitiveness at a time when competition from Russia and Ukraine is intensifying and free-trade agreements are multiplying. At the same time, climate change calls for major adaptations.

Leave, maternity: replacing farmers is gaining ground.

The text, which “is not intended to settle everything,”  according to the Minister of Agriculture, Marc Fesneau, was extensively revised and enriched at the request of the profession during the weeks of demonstrations preceding the Salon de l’Agriculture. Although the roadblocks were lifted at the FNSEA’s request at the end of February, farmers’ anger is still with us.

Meetings with the Prime Minister, Gabriel Attal, have continued apace, most recently on the eve of the FNSEA congress on March 25. And according to our information, the draft bill continued to be modified right up to the final hours of its preparation. The fundamental chapters are still dedicated to setting up, training and transmission, but the government has added the enormous challenge of agricultural sovereignty as a strategic priority. It “will have to inform public policy in the future”, warns the explanatory memorandum.

Agricultural sovereignty is defined as “France’s capacity to contribute, through sustainable biomass production, to food sovereignty and the decarbonization of the economy”. The text provides for the government to submit an annual report on the subject to Parliament.
For the Minister of Agriculture, food sovereignty has reached a threshold—around 400,000 farms—below which it can no longer be assumed. “We need more of them,” he says. The question of farm diversification will arise. Beyond the number of farmers, competitiveness—with greater simplification, easier access to water, etc.—is key to ensuring this sovereignty.

Support, training, assessments…

Among other measures designed to encourage the next generation of farmers, the government is proposing better support for young people setting up in farming and “a significant increase in the level of professional qualifications, via the creation of an agricultural bachelor’s degree” corresponding to a bac+3. It provides for lifelong training for farmers in ecological, economic and digital transition. A system will also be introduced for the ongoing assessment of farms and their resilience to climate change, as well as the cost of investments needed to improve this resilience.

France’s food sovereignty is under pressure

The FNSEA’s recommended tax changes to encourage farm transfers and increase competitiveness are not in the LOA; instead, they ought to be included in the 2025 Finance Act. The government has also conceded to a huge administrative and normative simplification project to be carried out at European, national and departmental levels. According to Marc Fesneau’s entourage, Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire will submit “a bill” on the subject, which will go beyond agriculture alone. The stated aim is to “create a framework of trust in which farmers can carry out their work free from the accumulation of standards”.

Responding to the emergency

Five articles have been added to the preliminary draft of the LOA to respond to the urgency of the situation. One of them sharply reduces regulations on hedges, which are subject to an abundance of standards. Two new articles have been added to decisions concerning basins, with the aim of reducing the time required for litigation and giving more decision-making power to the départements.
Penal sanctions for breaches of the Environmental Code may be converted into administrative sanctions, and this is a opening to the farmers’ demands.

Another law resulting from the French government’s dirigisme

The problem is that the law wants to achieve goals that may not coincide. Extremist environmentalists will not stop with their demands and may influence the presidential government.

Then there is the great illusion: to think that we can curb the decline with one or two laws, not with a profound reform of values, is something consistent comn with French dirigisme, but inconsistent with the reality of facts and history.

France will understand this only when it is too late


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