Organic farmers have been protesting in Paris against a potential cut in aid for organic farmers in the future CAP. But the French agriculture minister insists their calculations are “biased”. EURACTIV France reports.
For several weeks now, the National Federation of Organic Agriculture (FNAB) has criticised the business as usual approach of Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie regarding the country’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) national strategic plan for 2023-2027.
According to the federation, organic farmers will lose on average 66% of their aid under the future CAP. By refusing to pay for the environmental services rendered by organic farming, the minister is “stripping organic farming naked.”
“Organic farmers will be the big losers in this CAP,” said Pour une autre PAC (For another CAP) president Mathieu Courgeau on Twitter.
FNAB’s national secretary for the CAP, Loïc Madeline added that the minister’s approach is “an insult to organic farmers”.
As for the ‘eco-schemes’ – intended to reward farmers for implementing eco-friendly practices and will also apply equally to organic farming and to farming practices recognised by the High Environmental Value (HVE) label – many associations have accused the label itself of being a “greenwashing tool”. Newspaper Le Monde recently highlighted that the label has “no environmental benefits”.
On Wednesday (2 June), around 300 people protested in Paris in response to the call made by the FNAB.
— FNAB (@fnab_bio) June 2, 2021
In response to the online and in-person protest, Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie said that “the figures put forward by the FNAB are based on biased calculations”.
Instead, he insisted that aid for organic farming would rise from €250 to €340 million per year in the future budget period, i.e. an increase of 30%, an “unprecedented amount according to the ministry.
A 66% drop or 30% increase?
The problem is that the two are talking about different forms of aid, meaning the truth lies somewhere between the FNAB’s claims and the minister’s assurances.
This is because the farmers are criticising a drop in maintenance aid while the minister is promising an aid increase for conversion.
The aid increase for conversion should “reinforce the development of organic farming areas” in France and support farmers while they transition, conceived to ensure the ministry’s objective of having 18% of land organically farmed by 2027 is reached.
By comparison, maintenance aid, which helps farmers in the years once they have transitioned to organic farms, will eventually be reduced.
“Conversion to organic farming takes a long time,” FNAB’s Madeline recently told EURACTIV, arguing that “you absolutely need to have a perspective of more than five years” to take up such a challenge.
“We can disagree on the means of developing organic farming (installation vs. maintenance),” tweeted the French minister, who also insisted that “we must support conversion to organic farming.”
“That’s how we develop production and meet growing consumer demand”, he added.
Organic farmers – ‘pioneers of tomorrow’s sustainable agriculture’?
The ministry of agriculture contends that the lack of remuneration via the CAP will be subsidised by the premium price paid by the consumer that will support organic farming, something the FNAB criticises as this will mean there is “no quality food for precarious households”.
However, the farmers’ union, Coordination Rural, views this as good news given it is against allowing “farmers to be continually infused with aid”.
According to the union, abolishing maintenance aid would be an opportunity to develop the organic market and could “offer organic farmers the opportunity to be paid a fair price by the purchasing power of their consumers”.
En refusant de rémunérer via la PAC les services rendus par la #Bio @Agri_Gouv considère que c'est le prix haut payé par le consommateur qui va soutenir la #bio. Pas d'alimentation de qualité donc pour les ménages précaires cc @caritasfrance @RACFrance @FNEasso @FondationNH
— FNAB (@fnab_bio) June 1, 2021
However, the FNAB insists that France’s approach to eco-schemes should be re-evaluated, calling for “differentiated support for truly virtuous practices.”
“If we want there to be organic farming tomorrow, we must show farmers that their efforts will be supported,” FNAB’s Madeline said.
However, as the failed “super-trilogue” talks of last week’s CAP negotiations showed, the issue of eco-regimes is still far from resolved.
The EU’s 27 agriculture ministers still seem reluctant to give too much space to the agro-ecological transition, insisting on a minimum of 18% for direct CAP aid to be devoted to eco-regimes, compared to the 30% demanded by the European Parliament.
Whatever the outcome of the upcoming negotiations, making organic farmers the “pioneers of tomorrow’s sustainable agriculture”, as the European Commission put it back in March, seems easier said than done.
[Edited by Natasha Foote]