Farmers seek CAP reassurances from French presidential candidates

The EU's pork sector is in crisis. [Kevin DeRudder/ Flickr]

This article is part of our special report Agriculture: Towards more efficient resource allocation.

French farmers are eagerly awaiting their next president’s agricultural programme. The next head of state, to be elected in May, will play a central role in reforming the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy. EURACTIV France reports.

Confronted by a raft of crises in the pork, beef and milk sectors, France’s agricultural community is awaiting the EU’s new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) with bated breath. The CAP will be largely shaped by the country’s next president.

“From the start of their mandate, the future president will have to act quickly to breathe life back into French agriculture,” said the FNSEA, the country’s biggest agricultural union.

Crisis-hit French farmers unconvinced by new CAP

French milk, pork and beef farmers are currently facing severe crises, and they fear that the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) will not have the answers they need. EURACTIV France reports.

As the presidential election approaches, France’s farmers are hoping for measures to boost the sector, as well as policies to support the European agricultural model, under strain from international competition and price volatility.

According to data published last week (13 December) by the French National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE), the average income of French farms is set to fall by 26% in 2016 compared to 2015. Worst affected are milk producers, who were hit hard by the removal of European milk quotas and the milk crisis that followed.

To put the country’s farmers back on the right track, the FNSEA has issued the presidential candidates with a list of 13 recommendations, some of which are directly aimed at influencing the negotiations on the new CAP.

“The architecture of the current CAP is unable to respond to all the relevant issues. Farmers need Europe. But they need Europe to do better,” said the FNSEA.

CAP reform sows seeds of panic among French farmers

The CAP’s complicated new “greening” criteria are causing a headache for Europe’s 12 million farmers. In France, the revision of plots eligible for the subsidy has added to the confusion. EURACTIV France reports

For François Fillon, candidate for the right wing Republican Party, the debate on the new CAP is a priority. Favourite to win the election, Fillon said he intends to “make our view of the CAP count” during the reform debate.

Among his central proposals is the preservation of “every euro” of the CAP budget.

This proposal partly responds to the FNSEA’s concerns but the organisation believes the EU should take a step back. “The CAP budget fell by 12% between 2007 and 2014, even as Europe grew,” the union said.

Risk management

Among the criticisms levelled at the CAP is the fact that it does not do enough to mitigate the risks face by farmers. The question of dedicating European funds to an insurance fund against climate and market hazards, which have been recurring factors in recent agricultural crises, is one possible way forward.

For the FNSEA, the future European agricultural framework must “develop risk management tools”. More specifically, the farmers’ union called for the activation of a “revenue stabilisation fund as part of the new and improved CAP”.

“When market risks lead to price fluctuations so great that they place a member state’s agricultural sector in danger, it should be up to the Union to intervene. I will defend the idea that risk management should be one of the two priorities of the 2020 CAP,” Fillon said in his manifesto.

Marine Le Pen, the extreme right National Front candidate currently sitting second in the polls, sees the CAP as an inefficient tool for French agriculture and has called for the policy to simply be renationalised.

New CAP struggling to improve farmers’ resilience

Since the launch of the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in 2015, the EU’s farmers have suffered a string of crises. The CAP’s greening measures have helped farmers maintain their revenue, but the questions of job creation and access to land have proved harder to answer. EURACTIV France reports.

Too many standards

The question of standards is also animating the French debate. The FNSEA has called for an end to the over-transposition of European standards into French agriculture, which it believes harms the competitiveness of French farmers compared to their European counterparts.

Fillon appears to have been receptive to this call. “We have lost count of examples of over-transposition of the European rules and standards, which are already binding and costly in the name of the precautionary principle,” said Fillon.

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