As stated in a report from the agricultural think-tank SAF-Agrticulteurs de France (SAF), of which we have reproduced an extract below1
there is still hope for French Agriculture. Though the current context is particularly intimidating because of the instability and structural hyper-volatility that characterise agricultural markets, it is also a force for mutation, innovation and projects.
Far from suffering these mutations, agriculture and farms have the means to take on their future through win-win synergies (individuals, sectors, government) founded on bold and sustainable agricultural strategies.
"To be global without losing our roots, to be flexible and competitive in a globalized context!”. The SAF has addressed these issues with a concept of “trump cards” which would be used to support agricultural development in business in a proactive and forward-looking manner.
At a time when doubt has destabilised the French agricultural sector and at a time when it is still too often an adjustment variable in international negotiations, the agricultural sector, especially in Europe, has a duty to be ambitious if it wishes to secure its future and food safety.
momagri Editorial Board
The “Trump card”
People: free to independently and collectively build the future of their farming businesses and their territorial development and influence.
“THE EARTH DOES NOT NEED NEW CONTINENTS, BUT NEW MEN” JULES VERNE, TWENTY THOUSAND LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA.
It is people who ultimately make the decisions concerning their future and the future of their society. Fatalism, characterized by rules and administrative shackles, are traps that prevent people from engaging in the ways they consider best. In order for companies to be dynamic and enable them to develop their competitiveness in a globalized environment, the SAF has high hopes invested in people, free to embark on new entrepreneurial activities and companies in control of their long-term growth and prosperity.
The problem of territorial decline is largely a matter of people and mind-set. Is the region of north-eastern France doomed to die? For some analysts, this region will perish, for others, it will flourish. Note that this territory’s revival could be developed through residential tourism, cultural and nature tourism, which would also imply the presence of economically strong farmers throughout the territory.
The prognosis of a territory really depends on the ability of people to open their minds, for, as Sir Winston Churchill said “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity, an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
Looking at the world positively, is to consider change as an opportunity, it means moving towards innovation, new markets, even questioning the very purpose of the farming business in order to expand it, creating better matches between business and society, clients and consumers.
THE TIME TO ACT FOR THE FUTURE, IS THE PRESENT
It is important not to remain the spectator of a future made up of predictions based on scenarios. In order to build and prepare for the future, it is essential to seize the present. This is why the people who compose the territories must now seize all the opportunities that come their way and make these territories a bedrock for action.
Five cards for action, one trump card for decision
Agricultural business leaders have 5 SAF cards at their disposal: 5 cards, 5 themes for intervention and action. However, these 5 main cards will only be efficient if business leaders play their last card, the trump card, which gives meaning and scope to the 5 other cards.
THE TRUMP CARD REPOSES ON THE ATTITUDE OF THE BUSINESS LEADERS
The SAF considers that the dynamics of the future should come from the agricultural companies in the territories and in particular the people who lead them. Indeed, the markets do not think, they react. It is people who think and build. Similarly, territories do not think they endure. It is up to the people who inhabit them to build projects and share them for collective tomorrows. The SAF believes that people make and unmake territories, build or annihilate whole futures for these territories. Territories are not bad, people, however, can be.
This stance is essential to stay in a dynamic of hope and future for farming companies because the future cannot be read in a crystal ball, “the future is the result of the willpower, driven by our projects, our desires and dreams.” This proactive approach developed in the SAF report is based on its values: the values of participation, commitment, responsibility, innovation, risk-taking by the farm business leaders who make up the SAF community.
THE KEYS TO THE SUCCESS OF AGRICULTURAL BUSINESSES ANALYSED IN THE CONTEXT OF MUTATION
The SAF is wagering that the period of change or even the tipping-point that we are currently experiencing is a principle source for change, innovation and dynamism for building a different future for farming companies. Times change and companies must change and find new ways for development in the territories. It is obvious that if agricultural entrepreneurs are at the heart of change and are the drivers of dynamism and thus activity and wealth, they cannot carry out their projects without the support of the sector but also the government as a whole. This is a prerequisite for any business success: in a hostile environment, individual achievements are exceptional and cannot energize an entire territory.
Wealth creation must be the fruit of a common and shared commitment. That being said, it is the head of the company who must build the territorial strategy as part of the business strategy and choose the territories for development and influence.
A CHAIN OF COMMITMENTS AND SHARED VALUES: INDIVIDUALS, SECTORS AND GOVERNMENT
The SAF is counting on determined business leaders. However, a company with projects can only develop if the close links between individuals, factors for economic development, in a tangible and intangible sector and within an administrative structure, are properly understood.
This is why the SAF strives throughout its report to encourage agricultural business leaders to work together in order to place their individual strategy within the collective strategy that relies on producers, processors and distributors, with research as the common key. This tangible sector must be enriched by the actors of the intangible sector. Similarly, the SAF calls on governments at all levels to work to ensure consistency and meet the needs and expectations of business leaders so they play their economic, social, environmental and territorial role better. Easier and clearer access to public aid is certainly important but insufficient to support business dynamics. It is essential to think “global” across the entire industry and to think in terms of dynamics and the creation of activity and hence wealth.
BE THE PLAYERS OF SELECTED TERRITORIES: BE PART OF THE WORLD
It is important to work with real figures: farmers are less numerous even though their economic weight remains essential in the equilibrium of the nation. Farmers are considered citizens like any other, even though their business structures territories, creates employment and enriches the French trade balance.
In order for territories not to “endure”, farm leaders must become actors within the territories: clarify, drive their projects, make them known and invest in local consultation committees. This does not mean being integrated into everything and everywhere, but to address the lack of knowledge on the action, achievement and innovation driven by farm bosses in non-agricultural administrative and political spheres and even sometimes agricultural spheres.
For farm leaders: make themselves known, be proud of their achievements, be sure that each project contributes to the general interest, are necessary prerequisites for effective and constructive participation in the territories.
In addition, the SAF reminds us that the era of access to information marks the beginning of a more responsible, better informed and thus more competent society: what is good for society is good for farm leaders who are an integral part of this society. That is why agricultural business leaders who are better informed and concerned with maintaining a link with their partners will be better at presenting and diffusing the very essence of their trade and their projects.
The existence of a structure common to the sector as demonstrated in the Sectors card may be the answer to pooling the communication efforts of farm leaders (which takes time individually) and make them visible on a given territory. This is an effective way to go public all together.
1 To read the entire report (in french), follow this link http://www.agriculteursdefrance.com/fr/EtudesEtPropositions.asp?ThemePage=4&Rubrique=2&Num=124