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Family Farming Knowledge Platform

  France

Agriculture varies across the world, reflecting the natural environments in which farmers operate. Farms are the result of each country and the agrarian, cultural and social history of each territory. Within this environment, family farming is a massive phenomenon. It represents the overwhelming majority of farmers worldwide in terms of food production and employment: 70 per cent of global food production and 40 per cent of assets in the world. Ironically, the majority of people experiencing food insecurity are farmers or farm laborers. Because family farming is the largest producer of food in the world, because it is the world’s biggest employer, and because the majority of people who suffer from hunger are family farmers, for France, support for family farming is the way to contribute directly to food security. Indeed, family farmers are a pillar of the global economy. The jobs created by family farming are the first defense against hunger and poverty, and are pivotal in the dynamics of economic growth and regional development.

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Recent food crises have shown an increased interest in speculative land capital and agricultural commodities. This increased competition, combined with low recognition in policies of the central role of family farms, undermines their development and contributes to the movement of farmers to the cities. For food safety reasons, but also to balance the territories, it is important that public policies establish favorable and appropriate economic and institutional legal frameworks to secure access to land, credit, markets and training for family farmers.

The United Nations proclamation of 2014 as the International Year of Family Farming provides an opportunity to promote family farms as part of the solution to the food challenge, the challenge of the fight against poverty, and the challenge of sustainability. Through its policies and history, France has developed its agriculture on the model of family farming. It is fully mobilized in its international advocacy, on the one hand to demonstrate the political and social issues to support family farmers, and on the other to explain, from experience, the importance of defining agricultural policy adapted to these farmers. “Family farming is employment, land, scenic beauty and tradition, but also competitiveness, economic performance and the sustainable use of natural methods of production,” said Stéphane Le Foll, France’s Minister of Agriculture. “A family farmer is primarily a leader or operations manager on his farm. It is he or she who owns the means of production, works, takes technical and economic decisions on the farm and who bears the risk. It differs from the agro-industrial  model characterized by production capital held by absentee owners or shareholders of the operation, management and labor exclusively employed.” The principle of transmission, which is intrinsic to family farms, is also a common characteristic of these farmers. This involves the commitment of farmers in the management of natural resources. This sustainability strengthens social ties within a community and more widely within a territory. It is this model of family farming, as opposed to an agribusiness model, which still forms the basis of agriculture in France.

Over the past 50 years, France and the European Union have developed ambitious policies for family farming. After the Second World War, the six founding countries of the European Union implemented the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) with the main objectives to increase productivity, ensure a fair standard of living for the agricultural community, stabilize markets, guarantee supplies and ensure reasonable prices for consumers.

The European agricultural policy has fulfilled its mission and was able to support the development of European agriculture in preserving the diversity of (mainly family) farm structures while adapting to global challenges (increasing competitiveness, protection of the environment and rural development), echoing the developments of society.

During the last reform of the CAP, a special effort was made for small and medium farmers to encourage more productivity and drive the involvement of youth. In France, the structural policy is aimed at modernizing family farms and limiting the development of large farms. Thus, land use and forestry and rural development instruments were created and several measures have been implemented: long-term, tacitly renewable leases, control of land allocation to regulate the size of farms, regulation of rent prices and strong, secure access to land. This land policy has allowed family farmers to invest in soil fertility, limiting investment in the earth to concentrate on productive land management and the promotion of generational change. Politically, professional agricultural organizations are involved in decisions and the implementation of agricultural policies.

On the economic front, the establishment of inter helped improve the organizational capacity of the agricultural sector and tools for the empowerment of farmers have been put in place, such as the recognition of producer organizations or written development contracts. These national guidelines are now widely adopted in Europe. Recognizing the richness and diversity of terrors, France established a policy of quality and origin almost a century ago, to strengthen the competitiveness of its predominantly family farms. This policy, based on the link between produce and its source, and its superior environmental quality, is now shared at European level and represents an important lever for the use and development of our territories.

Under the leadership of Stéphane Le Foll, France has engaged in a two-year programme for the agro ecological transition of its agriculture. This will favor solutions that combine economic, environmental and social performance by promoting a systems approach to operations (global thinking, simultaneously integrating all aspects of the operation). There is no ready recipe, but a need to develop specific solutions in each context. Agro ecology is based in particular on the development of positive biological interactions within the agro ecosystem, promoting functional biodiversity for example, with rotations adapted to reduce dependence on inputs. It aims to strengthen the family farmer in his or her economic, social and environmental role, and make the farmer a key player in sustainable agriculture. Family farming is flexible, adaptable and innovative,  therefore it is best suited to be the spearhead of France’s agro ecological project.

The face of French agriculture today:

• 500,000 farms with an average size of 55 hectares and 966,000 permanent assets

• Agricultural production doubled in 50 years, to €66 billion in 2010

• Farmers are better trained, and 34 per cent are from higher education

• Agriculture employs more than 1 million people, and over 25 per cent are women

• The food industry is the second-largest industrial employer

• 25 per cent of farms have at least one production under a sign of official quality.

In 50 years, the total volume of French agricultural production has doubled, meeting the demographic challenge and participating in major global food balances. Food quality meets the standards expected by consumers. The number of farms has fallen by four in less than 50 years, leading to professionalization and significant improvement in economic performance. These farms are mainly family farms, often focused on diversification and a strong local presence rather than corporate formats.

 

This text is kindly provided by the authorities of this country

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