BOND – French National Workshop

2020. May 10., Sunday

July 15-17, 2019, Bergerac, France

The three-day French National Workshop was organisewd within the BOND project

On 15 July there was a discussion on local feeding systems at Sigoulès which was presented by Patrick Consoli, Mayor of the village. It was learned that in the Department of the Dordogne : 27 forms of production coexist, with all sector types, short or long. It is an advantage for the farmers, as all the equipment and infrastructures for processing exist. There are 5 farmers and 1 wine producer in the village of Sigoulès. The village has released 17 ha in order to receive farmers. There is one CUMA in the zone, easing access to machinery.
There is a food quality initiative in canteens:
Since the launch of the National policy « 20% of organic food in canteens», the mayor of Sigoulès has undertaken a study concerning food. In June, was awarded the highest Ecocert rating (76% organic products, 65% local). It also included the reduction of food waste: the canteen has gone from 50% of food thrown away to 10% waste, which is now composted. Organic supplies come from a centralised platform, the products come from within a radius of 70 km. The cost of meals has gone from 90 to 95 centimes, paid for by the village, however, the mayor does not consider the cost to be a limiting factor.

There was also a discussion on farm diversification activities.
– Emmanuel Roux : livestock farmer and wine producer, in GAEC with his brother and his parents. He delivers to Biolait. There is a project for cheesemaking. He also produces organic wine, transformed by the local wine cooperative, but is also in the process of building his own co-operative wine cellar, encouraged by his brother, who makes « natural » wine. 90% of his equipment is in CUMA (« proud to be able to work together »).

– Bénédicte Bosselut, livestock producer, wine producer and president of the cooperative cellar at Sigoulès. Initially a dairy producer (with a quota of 1,3 million litres), she moved over to goats in March 2019 because there was not enough land for grazing cows if she turned organic. She was looking for a better quality of life, and a farm model that would mean something to her children. She also plans to move to organic wine production.

On the second day on July 16 there was a disussion on European Controversies on farming between the participant. As an introduction an opening dabate was held by Bertrand Hervieu, sociologist, Albert Massot-Marti, a representative of the European Parliament Directorate-General on Research and Jean-Daniel Levy, director of the political department of a research Institute.

The following was the feedback of the BOND partners:

– Concerning” farmer bashing” :
o In Romania, the tension is actually within the farming world, between the different agricultural models
o In Spain, agriculture equally suffers from low esteem: « if you don’t know what to do, go into farming ».
o In Hungary, agriculture has a very poor image. Livestock farms, especially, suffer from criticism. However the smaller farms are more socially acceptable.

– Concerning agricultural politics :

  • In France, the agricultural policies have provided substantial support for post-war agriculture. We have been able to create 12 000 Cumas, within a regulated economic climate this would no longer be the case
    Now the influence of farmers within the population is diminishing, they are less present in local government.
    How can we organise things for the future ? It is necessary to rebuild rural economic solidarity, and also, perhaps, to develop other forms of regional solidarity within regions with other stakeholders.
  • In Portugal, the CAP (1986) and the opening of markets caused outrage.
  • Local food systems can provide opportunities for the access of small farms with fair prices (Portugal).
    Local cooperative models enable pressure to be put on the price without State intervention (example: in Spain, the platform for food sovereignty, which reunites politicians, but more importantly diverse local stakeholders)
    In Hungary, it means the creation of consumer awareness, as they are not open to the concept of low food miles. Educational farms would be an interesting concept that could be developed (there aren’t as many as there are in France).
  • Romania and Hungary are examining the strategic choices for the distribution of subsidies from Rural European Development, which runs into millions for Eastern Europe. At this level. The decisions taken are not « multi-stakeholder».
  • Equally, there is a noticeable gap between the discourse concerning Agro ecology and the political and financial means being put into place.
    The general opinion shared throughout all the European Union countries is that farmers have lost their influence within the economy and that there is a concentration of stakeholders upstream of them.

– Concerning family farming:

  • In Hungary, there are approximately 20000 farms registered in Hungary, which represents approximately 400,000 people. These are often semi-subsistence farms, situated in poor rural areas.
    (There are two extremes in Hungary in agriculture: the farms>100 ha use 72,7% of the land, but make up 1% of all farms, whereas 93,4% of farms have less than 10 ha and occupy 25% of the land – source FAO 2014)
    The legal form of a farm depends on the income, and defines the tax level. Up to 8 million Ft of income, a farmer is considered as a little producer. Beyond, he will have to pay more taxes.
    Thus, what happens in general, is that each family member has the statute of little producer, wheras only the father is the producer. As a result there are a lot of legal barriers for joint investment. The family farms are considered as being individual agricultural collectives.
    Problem is, 8 million Ft is a too weak income to access subsidies of the EAFRD neither the bank credit.

That’s why chambers of agriculture are now being mandated to create « family farm businesses », and to delimitate 2 other farm statutes, according to the level of external sales to consumers. But Kislépték considers that this separates firmly skills and possibilities to access the markets.

The Kislépték partner insists that there is a lag between the pro-family farming government « propaganda », and the reality which is very different.

  • In Romania, family farms can be characterised by the fact that they are orientated, at least in part to home consumption. They are linked to a person who is responsible for their management. They can be registered as a small legal entity. Their economic dimension is reduced. Size is a criteria that is difficult to handle, considering the variations from one country to another (see this subject in the study ‘Land Access’ coordinated by EcoRuralis : « small farms in Europe : time for a re-definition ») .
  • In Portugal: a status of ‘Family Farm’ has been promulgated:

>50% of family work,
If within the family, at least 2 people earn more than the minimum salary (600 € in Portugal), it is not a Family Farm,
+ over 18 years old,
< 500 € of CAP aid.
It is not considered as a profession as all have multiple activities.
Since the promulgation of this status, nothing concrete has been put into place. The CNA is worried about the future, as the Parliament was generally in favour, but there will soon be the elections.
In terms of recognition, the CNA is the organisation that represents family farmers. Founded 41 years ago, it has been well recognised by the National authorities over the last 21 years.

  • In France, there is no legal statute for a Family Farm. The reality is that it can be characterised by the fact that it mobilises a majority of family labour, land is retained or managed by the farmer, who takes the management decisions and has at least a majority of the capital.
    Although there is no official recognition, this type of farm is indirectly targeted by certain subsidies: favourable subsidies for the first 52 ha, subsidies for getting started in farming, subsidies for less favourable areas.
  • In Spain, there is no Family Farm status either. This applies to much smaller farms (<100 ha, considering that 52% of farms have <5 ha). The farmer is considered as being a «professional» if >50% of his revenue has come from farming

Common characteristics that the stakeholders have agreed on in order to discuss the notion of the Family Farm :
– The majority of the capital is held by the farmer
– The farmer is responsible for management
– The farmer chooses how the land is to be used
– At least part of the labour is provided by family members (with the exception of Hungary)

– Concerning collective organisations
Romania :

  1. The cooperatives:
    Activities : mainly the means of production, processing, sales (to purchasing platforms), partly purchasing and negotiation, a little less quality and discussions concerning know-how and trials.
    The law enables farmers and companies to be members.
    The rule « one man has one vote » is bypassed, and foreign interests are starting to intrude (via shares in Romanian companies). For certain coops, created under communism and never dismantled, farmers have grouped the land together, and one person manages it…)
  2. The associations:
    It is the ONG model, but this status is used by farmers regrouped within Eco-Ruralis, for example, because « small farmer » is not recognised as a profession, nor is it possible for them to create a union. It is an organisational model that is particularly adapted to the negotiator, with an exchange of know-how.
  3. The unions: they remain under State control
  4. Other forms of collective organisation, informal: AMAP (have a very low impact), crowdinvest, share holding (by farmers who are investing in land together), platforms for food sovereignty
    EcoRuralis underlines the fact that the main challenge is to gain recognition from small farmers, as a priority, over that of collective organisations.

Spain :

  1. Cooperatives : the sector is mainly organised for industrial transformation and sales, in big units, with second-tier cooperatives.
  2. Agricultural unions: there are 3 major unions. Role : political defence, administrative pressure (access to subsidies), training, and sharing know-how.
  3. Multi-stakeholder collective systems « informal » at a regional level:
    – Systems for guarantees by participation: reasonably recent, cover all fields, multi-stakeholder (consumers, associations,…), aiming for quality, sharing of know-how, shared sales, with a little advocacy, they can also have activities linked to machinery. Awareness is important.
    – Platform for food sovereignty (example: in the region around Valencia) : to aid farmers. Share know-how, processing, quality, and above all, awareness and negotiation.

A lot of collective organisations exist, with varied status: cooperatives, GIE, groups for development, SCIC, Cuma,…)
Last year, the FNCuma carried out a study with other organisations in order to define group agriculture (= having company status, managing principal « 1 man-1 vote, the majority being farmers, the notion of a local region, facilitating the transition into agro-ecology)
Currently there is an attempt to have this definition written into the law.

The effect of post-communism is leading to a certain reticence for individuals to group together. As a result, the level of collective organisation is weak, even if groups of producers and co-ops exist and have State recognition.
– Processing and equipment: is a weakness, farmers have difficulty organising equipment.
– Quality : a strong increase in production standards. Certification labels exist for the different channels. There are strong links with German companies (TESCO,…) who have contributed to initiatives such as HACCP, … being set up
– Negotiation : certain sectors are well represented. Example: poultry and milk: before companies like Danone dominated, but over the last 10 years the Hungarians have grouped together in order to make themselves stronger, and now 95% of milk is Hungarian
– Transfer of know-how: training groups are organised locally
– Sales are still very difficult. Since 2014, an initiative inspired by the GIE was put into place, which could benefit local sales, but it was blocked by industries that saw it as a form of competition. In Hungary, it is impossible to sell collectively.
– 4 groups of small producers have emerged in Hungary and they are looking to work together. There are other groups who had an EU project and were going to become structured within the next 4 to 5 years, and there should eventually be 24 groups of individual farmers linked together.

– The cooperatives are present for purchasing, processing and sales. With the State backing off, they have started to invest in other areas (exchange of knowledge). In the milk sector, notably, there is no alternative, apart from selling through cooperatives, and prices are very low.
– 5 national unions: CNA, CAP (big farmers, with close ties to the State), the cooperatives, young farmers, one linked to the CAP.
– As far as mechanisation is concerned, the historical heritage after the revolution should be considered: before, the means of production was largely through cooperatives, now, each individual has his own equipment, even though farm sizes can be only 1 ha.
– New informal forms of organisation are being created with the consumers (and can be linked to farmers).

III. On the third day the French Memorandum of Understanding wa drafted