“We do everything to be virtuous and we are deprived of aid”

“We do everything to be virtuous and we are deprived of aid”
“We do everything to be virtuous and we are deprived of aid”

This Thursday afternoon, Bruno Bonnin, a farmer in Thairé-d’Aunis, went to the Departmental Directorate of Territories and the Sea in La Rochelle, quite upset. He intended not to leave until he had an audience. It was finally received and heard. That day, the peasant had a lot on his heart. The day before, he had received a letter announcing that his agroforestry bonus had been withdrawn. The amount of aid now amounted to only 77 euros instead of 5,300 euros.

“Since 2018, we have planted 1,700 trees on cereal plots. To be eligible for the CAP, we planted between 55 and 60 trees per hectare, a rule which we respected. As with each Pac renewal, we are asked to redo our files. So, we draw our strips of trees, with the help of the management center, we write our comments. But there, in an office, there is a person who looked at my file and who counted that there were between 120 and 130 trees per hectare, without ever having come to the farm. A friend told me he must have counted the shadows! » says Bruno Bonnin.

“My son wanted to come with me. I told him no because I was spreading products that smelled bad”

Three days later, when we found him on his farm surrounded by hedges, the anger had subsided. After leaving the DDTM on Thursday, the farmer received an email confirming that there had been an error on his file and that the aid would be paid to him on May 29. A few meters from us, a hare bolted. In the distance, we see rows of young trees and meadows covered with flowers. The administrative bug which gave him a cold sweat and made him waste a lot of time was the last straw, the umpteenth demonstration that the agricultural system is no longer running smoothly.

A few months after the farmers’ anger, ultimately nothing has changed. Bruno Bonnin, who is not affiliated with either the majority union FNSEA or the Confédération paysanne, also took to the streets to express his fed up. “I try to do things as best as possible, I am 100% organic, we encourage organic, we want increasingly virtuous agriculture, and when I sit in front of my computer, I am told that we takes away my bonuses because I planted trees! But stop bothering us! » blurted out the young peasant.

Converted to organic in 2016

Son of a farmer, settled since 2004, Brunon Bonnin converted “Les Coutures” into organic in 2016. “It happened when I had my children. One day, my son who must have been 5 or 6 years old wanted to come with me. I told him no, because I was spreading products that smelled bad. We were also already doing direct sales and there was customer demand. I have no regrets and I will never turn back,” he assures.

Today, he raises a herd of 35 suckler cows and 80 pigs for their meat. He cultivates around a hundred hectares of cereals, which allows him to be completely autonomous and to feed his animals. It supplies many school canteens (Le Thou, Périgny, Geay, Soulignonnes) and sells nearly 60% of its production for direct sale on the farm. Unsurprisingly, times are tough. Delay in payment of the organic premium, drought in 2022, increase in charges (his fuel bill went from 8,000 to 20,000 euros), price of organic cereals halved… “It’s steep,” he says but this hard worker nevertheless remains optimistic.

“There is a market for organic as long as the sector is not unbalanced”

Even if he sees some of his colleagues switching back to conventional and organic brands going out of business, he remains convinced that there is a market for organic, “provided that we do not unbalance the sector and do not launching too many conversions at the same time and without support from the peasants.” But remain lucid about consumer behavior. “Everyone wants organic food and small birds under their windows, but these are the same ones that we also find buying meat from Canada in hypermarkets.”

Vegetarianism, the one that’s in trouble? Here again, “there is a lot to say” but he does not see the consequences. Its customers continue to eat meat, but favor quality over quantity. It fits her well. Contrary to popular belief, he sells his vacuum-packed organic beef steak or pork chops at the same price as a traditional butcher. At 43, he still has plenty of ideas, wants to continue planting trees, has started growing pickles, rents a tiny house on a plot of land… His wife has just given up her job in a retirement home to work on the farm.

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