Policy. “Europe, an element that allows our agriculture to hold together”

Policy. “Europe, an element that allows our agriculture to hold together”
Policy. “Europe, an element that allows our agriculture to hold together”

By

Julien Munoz

Published on

May 18, 2024 at 9:22 p.m.

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In the Sleeve with family for the Pentecost weekend, Agnès Pannier-Runacher, Minister Delegate to the Minister of Agriculture and Food Sovereignty, took the opportunity to visit the Nature Space Agricultural Show of Coutances this Saturday May 18, 2024.

A few weeks before the European elections, a few days after the start of debates in the National Assembly on the agricultural bill.

-.fr: Europe is sometimes perceived as distant by the population. However, it is very present in everyday life. From this point of view, isn’t agriculture a concrete case?

Agnès Pannier-Runacher: Europe is one of the elements that allows our agriculture to hold together, to support agro-ecological transitions, and to protect European agriculture in the face of international competition. Of course, we can see how much we could do even better. This is one of the issues that we are raising at the European level. When we standardize living things, we sometimes risk being too precise, and this does not correspond to the reality of agriculture. On the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), we negotiated a relaxation of a certain number of measures. This is not a relaxation of our agroecological ambition, but rather a consideration of agricultural activities taking place on the ground.

“We never talk about farmers who are doing well”

-.fr: Concretely, how is this characterized?

A P.-R. : To put it very simply, a hedge, when it is forbidden to cut it between March 15 and September 15, maybe only two years out of four, it works. And maybe over two years, for climatic reasons, it doesn’t work. In my territory, Hauts-de-France, it rained so much that at no time was it possible to intervene on the hedges before March 15. Everything is out of sync: nesting, maintenance… If we apply the CAP as it is, farmers would have risked losing their support because they would have cut the hedges at a time out of sync…

-.fr: You are today in an agricultural high school. Does the sector still attract young people?

A P.-R. : There are, of course, difficulties in the sector, but we never talk about the farmers who are doing well, who are passionate about their profession, who want to pass on their farm to the right people. Nor the diversity of professions. From the continuum of agriculture to the plate, there is a lot of technicality and innovation. Lots of commitment, too, to living things and to agroecology. These are values ​​that, in general, resonate with young people. There is also a diversity of statuses, which means that the young person can be an entrepreneur of his farm, an agronomist engineer in the service of research or build the best possible food.

-.fr: Is this diversity likely to appeal to them? The sector is also experiencing difficulties, with half of farmers due to retire within ten years…

A P.-R. : To attract young people, we must tell them the meaning of the profession: participating in the absolutely essential mission which is that of nurturing. It’s also fun. Good food is linked to pleasure, well-being and social connections. It is also the ecological commitment that resonates with young people who are worried about what the planet will be like in twenty or thirty years. It is also the technological diversity and postures. Agriculture is not a conservative, boring world. There is always something happening, new inventions. Especially at the moment… When we look at innovation in agricultural start-ups, whether it is in plant processing, breeding, food… it is multifactorial.

Agnès Pannier-Runacher was visiting Coutances (Manche) this Saturday May 18, 2024. ©Julien MUNOZ

-.fr: A few weeks after the agricultural crisis, the debates on the orientation bill for sovereignty in agricultural matters and the renewal of generations in agriculture began this week in the assembly. What issues must it respond to?

A P.-R. : The text aims to set in stone that agriculture is a fundamental issue for the country, and an activity of major public interest. It is also about taking measures that facilitate the installation of new farmers. Increase awareness of professions among new generations, including from primary school. Better train people who want to embark on this course, by allowing them to have a bachelor’s degree (Bac + 3 specialized), which gives them more chances of succeeding in their farm.

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“What we do is pragmatic”

-.fr: How can we connect the generations, between those who are arriving and the operators who would like to leave?

A P.-R. : Installing them better is the whole challenge of France Services Agriculture, which connects in a visible and transparent way farmers who plan to retire and young people who plan to set up. We must plan the way in which we support young people and help them put together their recovery file. And this, not only on the financial file. There are measures to help them finance their loan, to ensure that they have a State guarantee… but it also helps them to think about their exploitation, what they intend to produce, in such a way as to that they find a consumer at the end. And that it is at the right cost and that it is correctly remunerated.

-.fr: Isn’t imagining the agriculture of tomorrow also preparing for the impacts of climate change?

A P.-R. : Anticipating the climate impact is a challenge for them to move in the right direction…

-.fr: Precisely, on this point, the opposition accuses you of having lowered your ambitions…

A P.-R. : It’s wrong. What we do is pragmatic. There is not a single line of our environmental rules or constraints that has been removed. What we are saying is that bureaucratic procedures must move faster. They must be clearer and simplified. Basically, when we have a project, the state authorities must be able to say “yes” or “no”, quickly and clearly, and not for this to last for years. We must not confuse environmental ambition with a bureaucratic approach to things.

“To say that we can do 100% organic is false”

-.fr: The organic surface area targets were deleted from the rural code in the vote on the law. What are the government’s organic objectives?

A P.-R. : People who say that we can do 100% organic, that’s false. There are conservation type agricultures, which use very little phyto, but still a little. And, on the other hand, they will not plow. Organic has very demanding specifications. But there are other types of agriculture which may have an interest, particularly in terms of soil quality. We must not oppose agriculture. However, we all agree that we must reduce phytosanitary measures and continually improve the nature of our agriculture. However, the technical paths to do so may be different. The important thing is to feed everyone. The yields of organic are much lower than those of conventional. If we reduce our production capacity by 30%, this means that we will be dependent on exports. And that we will import products that will be less expensive in terms of quality and environment…

-.fr: On the use of phytosanitary products, a landmark case, near here, was the ban on dichloropropene for carrot producers in Créances. How can we support transitions more effectively?

A P.-R. : It’s an emblematic example, because it’s not easy. We must invest massively today to find alternatives to these products. Alternative solutions could be varietal selection, accelerating genomic techniques. Working on the molecules we use in the fields, diversifying crop rotations… All of this is complex. We are putting a billion euros on the table.

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