“We raise a lot of money for little profit”

As the farmers' agitation continues, the government is due to present its bill in the coming weeks to “support a generational renewal in agriculture”. A major challenge since France lost almost 20% of its agricultural activity between 2010 and 2020. Cécile Gazo, doctor of sociology and expert in agricultural installations, explains why the industry is struggling to reinvent itself.

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Among farmers, anger has been simmering for a week. Faced with an increasingly significant movement, Prime Minister Gabriel Atal announced on Friday January 26 that he was backing off on some critical measures, such as the increase in tax on non-road diesel (GNR). But the government needs to be more imaginative to arrest the slow decline of the industry and restore the attractiveness of an industry that no longer attracts young people. Explanations with Cécile Gazo, doctor in sociology and specialist in agricultural installations.

Almost 170 000 The Ministry of Agriculture has said that farmers should retire by 2030. Is there a problem in strengthening the establishment of new farmers? ?

Indeed a demographic challenge will arise and it is already glaring. Today we have more farmers leaving than the number of installations. Agricultural production is already only 1.5% of the active population. If nothing is done, the French model of family farming risks disappearing or drifting away from the aims of food sovereignty. Historically, the French agricultural model was based on the figure of the farm manager. Today, it is notable that the number of employees on farms is increasing, unlike the number of farm managers, which is constantly decreasing. So the challenge is to find a strategic vision for agriculture: who to support, which models and operating structures for which production?

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What are the main barriers to restarting agricultural activities?

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We must distinguish between takeover cases of family business and takeovers of creations outside the family structure, because the obstacles are different. In the first case, there is strong social and professional mobility among the children of farmers. Result: Children take up other jobs and parents find themselves without heirs. When children are ready, they still need to buy shares from siblings. In the 1950s, the farm usually went to one of the children, and the others could sit on the inheritance. Today, the family no longer needs to give gifts to those who take over the farm, and often spend on family provisions. The cost of purchasing a farm also poses a problem, as traditional value is often unrelated to economic value for farmers' installations outside the family structure. In the end, we raise a lot of money for little financial return.

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Are agricultural high school courses still attracting more young people? ?

In the initial training classes, we find a large number of sectors of activity related to agriculture and rural activities, but compared to services, manufacturing is more difficult to recruit. In continuing education, which attracts many potential future farmers, there may be a strong gap between the content of training historically tailored to farmers' children and the needs of current diversity. Indeed, those considering vocational retraining towards agriculture, often already qualified, lack more in practice than in general culture. So the challenge is to respond to these new diverse profiles.

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Is there a gap between the aspirations of vocationally retrained people and the aspirations of farmers' children? ?

What is more in the imagination of people from non-agricultural backgrounds is that they will contribute to changing the agricultural model by doing more collaborative work on the farm and capturing added value. The development of a direct sales network through the use of marketing generally favors long circuits, involving a large number of intermediaries. Today we see a divide between those who support the agricultural model and those who can assess it as “in decline”, and this fringe of people who want to invent new agricultural models with a sometimes somewhat idealistic view of the industry. It is therefore important to bring these two worlds into dialogue to avoid worsening the gap between supply and demand during exchange.

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