mercredi, avril 24, 2024

The Comb Lab newsletter : The anger of farmers.

The complexity of social issues, which have become technical and intertwined, no longer allows anyone to have an all-encompassing knowledge of them. So specialists in a particular topical issue deploy their arguments, striving to put together an intelligible, if not exhaustive, coherence. With regard to the agricultural crisis at the beginning of the year, the clumsy introduction of taxation on non-road fuel, the maze of European subsidies and the extreme diversity of farmers made it difficult to grasp what was at stake. The fact is, divergent sectional interests, by adding to the current electoral competition, are jeopârdising the urgent and inevitable reorientation of agriculture towards righteous methods.

Progress and setbacks in the European strategy :

Pierre-Marie Aubert, an agricultural engineer and director of the agricultural and food policy programme at the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations, said on France Culture on 5 Februaryi: “The EU’s ‘farm to fork’ strategy had 27 draft texts or revisions of texts. Of these 27, 8 “communications”, which commit to virtually nothing, have been published. One revision concerned a text on plant protection products, “natural preparations of low concern”, allowing farmers to use nettle purin and comfrey purin without worrying about fraud control. All the rest did not see the light of day.

  1. The revision of the pesticides directive was rejected by Parliament;
  2. The law on nature restoration has been extremely weakened and has not yet been implemented;
  3. The directive on classified installations, which applies to farms of a certain size: cattle have been excluded from the application of the directive;
  4. The animal welfare package has been postponed indefinitely;
  5. And so on.

I could continue the list to 27 projects and we would still not have a structuring element for the agricultural world. What has been criticised in relation to set-aside is the reform of the CAP. It’s not the Green Deal. The Member States and Parliament wanted the reform of the CAP not to be affected by the Green Deal.

In their demands, farmers think they are talking about the Green Deal,, but in reality it has nothing to do with that. »

The fact remains that in several countries, including France, the issue of agricultural fuel is also being postponed. The sudden introduction of reforms without education or compensation is not a recipe for success anywhere in Europe.

A serious, tragic, non-rational subject:

Serious because since the second half of the 19th century, policies to reduce the number of farms have been accumulating in response to very different motivations at different timesii. So this is not a new phenomenon. “Between 1892 and 1929, 30% of farms disappeared. This fall was due to the disappearance of a majority of farms of less than 1 hectare, while medium-sized farms grew in importance”iii; the economic crisis of the time also had something to do with it.

Then, as now, the shrinking number of farms is a sign of the slow but steady shift from subsistence farming to farming geared towards speculation to exchange food products for primary natural resources such as rare metals, copper and so on. Hence the welcome article published by Le Monde on 11 February: “The time has come to produce first and foremost to feed ourselves, not to feed the international markets”iv.

Tragic because, according to Agreste studiesv reported by François-Xavier de Montard, Honorary Director of Research at INRAE, “19.3% of farmers (76,760) earn less than €10,000 a year (€833 a month) and 39.8% (160,792) earn more than €50,000 (€4,167 a month)”. These few figures confirm that this profession is one of the most unequalvi and hardest hit: every two days a farmer commits suicide in France, according to the Institut national de la veille sanitairevii.

Non-rationalbecause “every year, French agriculture receives between 9 and 9.5 billion euros in subsidies from Brussels. To this must be added another 4 to 5 billion euros in aid at national level. The French agricultural sector therefore receives between €14 and €15 billion in subsidies every year. No other sector benefits from subsidies of this order of magnitude,” writes Christian Amblard, honorary research director at the CNRS, in Médiapartviii. What rational arguments can justify not making a massive switch to agro-ecology to feed the country’s population in the face of climate change? Between the impulse for immediate satisfaction and reason, the battle remains unequal.

And yet there are solutions available.

Productivism, conventional farming, organic farming, agro-ecology, whatever the persuasion, to adjust agricultural production methods to the current and future cascading consequences of climate change and the loss of biodiversity, we need to bring hybrid private/public funding to farms in order to : 1) make the transfer of land fair, 2) move away from the sterilisation of soils by plant protection products towards a “soil/plant synchrony” relationship, as described in a well-documented article (in English) by Sébastien Fontaine, a specialist in agriculture, food and the environment at INRAEix, and 3) to reintroduce labour into farms by offering work, i.e. to make a daily professional activity conceived and experienced as work, thus abandoning employment, which consists of exchanging time from one’s life ;for a salary.

Putting your money where your mouth is.

The multiplication of solid arguments circulating in response to these days of blockades proves once again that all the knowledge needed for a successful ecological transition and food security exists, and that everyone has free access to it. Comb Lab has therefore decided to put its money where its mouth is by inviting its partners to set up an agro-socio-ecology centre in the Combrailles region. Details of the specifications will be published shortly.


ii Éric Alary L’histoire des paysans français Éd. Perrin 2019.

Anthony Hamon Comment Napoléon III a permis le productivisme à la française The Conversation 08.02.2024.

iii Ibid p. 177



vi See the five-part survey in Le Monde sous le lien suivant :


viii Christian Amblard, Médiapart 07 02 2024. file:///Users/macbookpro/Library/Containers/


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