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.
Will Europe retain its farmers
Point of view

Will Europe retain its farmers?

momagri Editorial Board

Will Europe retain its farmers? Such is the question asked by Henri Nallet, a former agriculture minister in the Michel Rocard government, in a new essay published in October 2010. As a trusted observer of agricultural issues for the past thirty years, Henri Nallet dares to ask troubling questions. We do recommend his pertinent and fascinating essay and are presenting below its summary.

While the agricultural issue returns to the forefront of the international arena and the European Union is currently negotiating for a new Common Agricultural Policy, Henri Nallet speaks out. He first retraces the challenges facing the CAP today and explores new paths to look at what tomorrow's European agriculture could be.

Henri Nallet starts out his essay by going back over the underlying ideology that has served as fertile grounds for the development of agricultural policies throughout the world, and especially that of the CAP in Europe. According to the expert, such ideology––which is the epitome of economic ultra-liberalism––became prominent when the United States decided to find an outlet for its agricultural products. It represents the starting point of the current trend, to which the Europeans had to adjust. Henri Nallet clearly outlines the various stages of the CAP dismantling and the surrender of Europeans when confronted by the defenders of "market and decoupling signals." Today however, the defenders of trade liberalization are facing an increased reassessment of the supposedly beneficial consequences of that economic policy. Their solution is to take refuge by raising the specter of a return to protectionism. But is not the current, unregulated system itself carrying the seeds of protectionism? In such an environment, the European Commission struggles to reconsider its stance, as if caught in a vice-like grip between the surge of new questions following the last food crisis and the deference to its positions at the WTO.

From then on, Henri Nallet calls for agricultural market regulation to be at the heart of the up-coming G20 Summit in France, since the former minister feels that the European Union will clearly not be in a position to achieve some "regulation" by itself. Henri Nallet's thinking––which is in line with that presented by momagri––would be to set up a "global system of regulation" and to define "several large agricultural areas leaning toward food self-sufficiency and only marginally relying on international markets." Yet even today, there are some who still wish that the CAP be dismantled and aid be decoupled. The concerns of European citizens regarding the environment and health issues partly explain the indictment endured by the CAP for the past few years.

But Henri Nallet points out that behind the good feelings of the political ecology, we must not forget that the dismantling of the CAP remains closely linked to the future of farmers and employment as well as to the broader issue of global food security. Thus the need to strive to connect environmental concerns with market stabilization, to associate "free intensification" with "sustainable agriculture." Convinced that action is possible to stir things up, Henri Nallet is in favor of linking up farmers' income assistance and durable agriculture.

That income assistance would include "financial aid based on simple, quantifiable environmental targets, broadly shared by homogenous region, approved and controlled by the Commission or an agency that would include agronomists, professionals and representatives of the civil sector. This policy of supporting "sustainability" would be supplemented by "measures aiming to improve agricultural productivity."

The adequate quantitative and qualitative trade of food products would justify such concept of income assistance. Mr. Nallet outlines his concept of income assistance as a flexible one: "When in a given year, market prices are soaring, it could be allocated to a fund in anticipation of leaner years." This assistance could also be limited to a given amount, contrary to the Single Payment Scheme (SPS), since it would at the outset serve to guarantee a suitable income. To support his theory, Henri Nallet draws on the American example, which does not burden itself with decoupling and which acknowledges the significant role of agriculture in the country's economy. He feels that it should help Europeans to eliminate their guilt feelings.

Mr. Nallet then calls for the European Union to strive to achieve self-assertion, to defend its interests and power objectives… and to have the courage to state that, barring prices that "normally" compensate the work of farmers, there will soon be no farmers in Europe.

The list of recommended regulatory tools includes: implementation of reserves to fight speculation, regulation of futures markets to "reconnect" them with available physical volumes––even outlawing speculation on basic food products––and lastly, a European system of preference.

Henri Nallet concludes by indicating that he expects the French G20 presidency to issue an initial position of principle that could generate the following recommendation: "Regulation instead of liberalization", which would already represent a first victory for the former minister of agriculture. Henri Nallet's wish might become reality, since Nicolas Sarkozy's recent statements seem to substantiate his resolve to labor so that all G20 powers agree on a consensus on the agricultural issue.
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Paris, 16 June 2019