France is set to stick with the status quo when it comes to the future Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), a stance widely welcomed by trade unionists but criticised by others for its lack of ambition on social and environmental matters. EURACTIV France reports.
France’s national agriculture plan for 2023-2027 based on the EU’s CAP will have at its heart the promotion of productive and quality agriculture.
The long-awaited refinements presented by Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie last Friday (21 May) show the minister’s desire to maintain business as usual – much to the dismay of supporters of a genuine ecological transition.
Rather than the dramatic change of direction that some stakeholders hoped to see, ‘consolidation’ seems to be the name of the game for France’s plans.
This is particularly the case for the CAP’s first pillar – direct payments to farmers and redistributive payments – which are set to be maintained at their current level to support the competitiveness of French agriculture and consolidate support for the farmers’ income, according to a press release published by the ministry.
Denormandie also announced an increase in aid to the plant protein sector and the implementation of a new aid mechanism for the cattle breeding sector to move away from the current “dependency”.
The aim is to develop France’s plant protein sovereignty and help structure the country’s strategic cattle breeding sector.
Denormandie also said he wants to help young farmers and have a “CAP that invests in the agriculture of tomorrow” by doubling the support for setting up a farm.
In terms of the agro-ecological transition, the minister expressed his desire to “fully support all farmers”.
The so-called eco-schemes, intended to reward farmers for implementing eco-friendly practices, will thus have to be simple and “accessible to all”, he added.
In terms of organic farming, the future CAP budget should support the conversion of farms to reach 18% of agricultural land by 2027 – a programme deemed “ambitious but achievable” by the ministry.
Satisfied trade unionists
Trade unionists have welcomed the minister’s announcement.
The Coordination Rural trade union said it was “relieved” by Denormandie’s choices, which on the whole were deemed to be satisfactory.
The new ministry’s decisions would stabilise farm incomes – one of the first demands the unions made in recent months and one that has led to numerous protests across the country.
For their part, the Young Farmers union welcomed the “notable response” to the challenge of generational renewal, yet, in the same way as the country’s largest national federation of farmers’ unions, the FNSEA, voiced regret at the lack of ambition in terms of managing risks related to climate change.
However, the group does consider Denormandie’s decisions to be relevant to regain French food sovereignty, an objective strongly defended by trade unionists and many politicians.
‘Irresponsible’ status quo and ‘anti-environmental caricature’
However, although some have welcomed the decision to maintain the status quo, many others have strongly criticised this approach.
According to the Pour une autre PAC (for another CAP) platform, what is being maintained is an “irresponsible” status quo. None of the decade’s challenges, including the agro-ecological transition, decent incomes, or food sovereignty, will be met, the association added.
The National Federation of Organic Agriculture (FNAB), for its part, called the government’s move an “anti-environmental caricature”.
“The new CAP will leave us naked,” the federation said on Twitter.
Denormandie’s decision “is an insult to organic farmers”, said Loïc Madeline, FNAB’s national secretary in charge of the CAP.
According to the minister’s announcements, aid for organic farming will be allocated in the same way as HVE (high environmental value) subsidies – even though the latter has been criticised for its lack of environmental ambition, as newspaper Le Monde revealed on Tuesday (25 May).
The minister’s announcements came ahead of this week’s crucial negotiations between the European Commission, Parliament and the Council on the CAP’s future. Issues like the CAP’s green architecture and trade relations are still on the table.
[Edited by Natasha Foote/Zoran Radosavljevic]