Operation to combat land-grabbing in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region

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In order to discourage foreign investors from purchasing hectares of farmland, the “Safer” society and the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region are encouraging MPs to notify them of this in advance. EURACTIV France’s media partner, the Journal de l’environnment reports.

Is word-of-mouth a good way of stopping land grabbing? The society for land development and rural settlement (Safer) and the executive of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region are experimenting with a new way of monitoring farmland transactions.

The objective is to identify and intervene, with the help of vigilant MPs, even before a sale agreement for farmland has been signed to avoid land being sold to investors from other countries.

Following the acquisition of hundreds of hectares by Chinese investors in the provinces of Le Berry and then L’Allier, the agricultural profession is still trembling at the idea of seeing its acres – which are among the cheapest in Europe – serve as a substrate for the production of food or fuels which would be sent abroad, or for a completely different economic or tourist activity unrelated to agriculture.

“We have to find a way of ensuring that the land stays with our children,” outlined Marie-Laure Pommier, quality manager at Safer Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes. This is where the idea of setting up a warning system to convey information from the ground about agricultural transactions came from.

Dedicated hotline and e-mail address

The “Safer” societies already have a portal (vigifoncier.fr), to which notaries provide information, to monitor sales of agricultural land in urban and peri-urban areas in real time. These sales include the sales of shares and membership shares.

Even though MPs had permitted the Safer societies to pre-empt companies’ shares in partial sales, under strictly regulated conditions, the constitutional council decided to censure this provision, in the name of property rights.

Regional “Safer” societies and the executive can therefore rely on a network of aware MPs and a dedicated hotline and e-mail address to identify future transactions in advance. Could this result in talking-shops, or even people informing on others?

“It’s better to check rumours than to not have any information at all,” Pommier believed. “Our concern is to favour food from French holdings and not see it being sent abroad. It’s more a question of being vigilant than informing on others.”

The Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes authorities, which is also the region of the leader of Les Républicains, Laurent Wauquiez, has provided the funding for this, releasing a €150,000 budget over three years.


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