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The future of farming : has France put it on hold?

As the 2022 presidential campaign started, the incumbent candidate, Emmanuel Macron, announced that agricultural reform would be a main priority for his second term in office. Since then, the presentation of the bill has been delayed again and again and is now expected in early 2024. In the meantime, the challenges facing French agriculture are ever growing, whether it be adapting to climate change or addressing the needs of the younger generation of farmers.

Indeed, France’s vibrant agricultural sector is being tested on all fronts; from its environmental impact, to competitive prices from foreign products with lower standards or the disinterest of the next generation for this field of work. The next decade will be key to finding answers to the problems faced by demographic and social changes in agriculture, the availability of water resources, the protection of biodiversity and the shift in food demands. The scale of the problems should encourage urgent action, but the repetitive delays to the bill have led many farmers to believe that the crises their industry is facing are an afterthought.

Why the delay some might ask?

- Within the government or the majority party, a consensus has yet to be reached on the content of this law. How can one meet climate commitments without creating a too important financial burden for farmers? How can we strengthen French standards without reducing European and international competitiveness?

- Within the opposition, there are those that will cry out that European regulation is to blame or that we must do away with globalisation and only support small local productions. Neither of these stances are realistic or offer an answer to the challenges faced. But, any law will have to answer to such demands in order to stand a chance of being voted through a parliament with only a relative majority.

- An already overpacked legislative agenda is further lengthening the process. With urgent bills to help the cost of living, plans to reform the judicial system and the most anticipated bill on immigration there is little room for a text on long term agricultural strategy.

Some of the most contentious questions revolve around measures to combat hydric stress. The agricultural sector is currently exempt from the target to reduce water consumption by 10% across all industries, but still stands to be subject to measures to increase reuse and optimise water storage methods - whose environmental impacts are just as controversial.

The most important question remains as to what we want the future of farming to look like in France. Without an answer, it will be a herculean task to defend any bill and breach the political divide. The importance of the farming industry unites us, it’s time we found a solution.

Contact any of our United Government Affairs network members to analyse the threats and opportunities behind this initiative and engage in policymaking.

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