A new vision for agriculture
momagri, movement for a world agricultural organization, is a think tank chaired by Christian Pèes.
It brings together, managers from the agricultural world and important people from external perspectives,
such as health, development, strategy and defense. Its objective is to promote regulation
of agricultural markets by creating new evaluation tools, such as economic models and indicators,
and by drawing up proposals for an agricultural and international food policy.
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French land and rural development agencies (SAFERs) stand as bulwark against the financialization of agriculture



Arnaud Carpon, Terre-net Média


Article published in Terre-net Média



Gathered for their annual meeting in Dijon on November 27 and 28, 2014, the SAFERs welcomed the progresses of the future of agriculture legislation on the issue of land management. But a progress report will be required two years from now to know if the SAFERs’ extended rights will be adequate to curb circumventions, and most of all fight the ominous financialization of agricultural land.

Regulation tools are not only impatiently expected in the dairy sector, “they are required for all sectors,” explained Emmanuel Hyest, President of the FNSAFER, who spoke on the crucial farmland control to develop production operations. Along with the assessment of the legislation, this was one of the key topics of the FNSAFER meeting held in Dijon on November 27 and 28, 2014.
To reverse the spiraling excessive consumption of agricultural land––which condemns the equivalent of a single “département” every ten years––but also to mediate, if needed, on the attribution of land to maintain the family farming model, the measures included in the legislation on agriculture seem to please the SAFERs’ representatives.


CURBING THE CIRCUMVENTIONS OF SAFERS’ RIGHTS

The SAFERs’ intervention conditions have been significantly increased. They now have a pre-emption right in case of sales of 100 percent of shares in agricultural firms leading to a transfer of land ownership. They can also intervene in cases of division of property, that is to say in cases of sales of land bare ownership or usufruct right. Up to now, these two circumstances were the two major means to circumvent the risk of SAFER pre-emption. “While some were considering merging them with state-owned institutions, the SAFERs’ role has been strengthened,” said Stéphane Le Foll in a taped address, since the Minister for Agriculture opted for the Independent Winegrowers Show to present the “High Environmental Value” logo.

Yet broadened rights mean expanded duties. In addition to an improved governance system with three committees––professional agricultural organizations, local entities and government/environmental associations––the SAFERs must become more accountable for their activities, and provide more detailed information on land uses and price trends. Above all, these 26 committees must be up-to-date on local issues and the new territorial map. Based on the correlation between their perimeter and that of the administrative regions, “the SAFERs’ regionalization will be conducted in three stages by 2019,” indicated Luc Maurer, Technical Advisor to the Minister, in closing the first day of the meeting.


THREAT OF FINANCIALIZATION OF THE AGRICULTURAL POTENTIAL

The issue of redeveloping the SAFERs’ missions and powers, in addition to adapting their priorities to the demands of “different types” of agriculture, includes the fight against the financialization of agriculture, which is a cause for concern for the agricultural community.

The land gross rental return is indeed lower than it was ten years ago, around 3.2 percent today against 4 percent in 2004,” states Robert Levesque, Director of SCAFR-Terre d’Europe. “But given the current yields of the “Livret A” savings accounts and life insurance plans, farmland is attracting an increasing number of investors, who are in direct competition with farmers willing to purchase land.”

And that does not include another growing trend reported in Europe––and France has not been spared. “Large American or British investment groups are purchasing thousands of hectares in Europe. France could thus experience this development of corporate agricultural operations,” explains the agricultural specialist.

The concerns of the representatives of the agricultural community are all the more justifiable since “land prices are quite lower in Europe and thus remain a factor of competitiveness,” says Dominique Chambrette, Vice President of the AGPB, the French association of wheat producers. “Poland is the only country where land is cheaper. Farmland leasing is also a competitive advantage with our neighbors.”

In the face of such threats, the SAFERs and the Government want to further bolster their cooperation following their joint work on the planning legislation. They will sign a “pact for the future” next spring. And by the summer 2015, the Minister for Agriculture will gather all land management participants for a conference to address all issues of concern.

The collaboration between the SAFERs and the ministry’s services resulted in better clarity and strengthened powers for the SAFERs. Yet, these measures will have but little impact if at the same time the political will of the local authorities in charge of planning and urbanization of their territories does not change. As stated by Stéphane Le Foll, this is a major challenge. Twenty to thirty years from now, France will have 10 million additional people, that is to say the population of the Ile-de-France region.

“Even though urban pressure has declined since the onset of the economic crisis, the current rate of urbanization could cut the French agricultural potential by seven to eight percent by 2050,” concludes Emmanuel Hyest. “Enough to mortgage all the ambitions of French agriculture.”


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Paris, 19 December 2018