Etats Généraux de l'alimentation: What to expect?

It is this Thursday, December 21, that the verdict of the "Etats généraux de l'alimentation" will fall: the release of pesticides, the law on trade negotiations and the financing of agricultural investments. These decisions are eagerly awaited by farmers, industrialists, distributors and environmental associations, in the expectation of an assessment, some measures of which have already been announced.
An 11 October at Rungis, President Emmanuel Macron promised a new bill for 2018 on commercial negotiations between producers, industrialists and distributors at the conclusion of the first part of the Estates General on the creation and distribution of value for a "move upmarket in agriculture". In return, he asked the 24 inter-professional agricultural associations to present him with a sector plan before the end of the year.
Farmers are therefore waiting for the government to take stock of the second project on healthy, safe, sustainable and accessible food for all and to introduce the bill, which must be voted on before June 2018.
"We've done our part" by presenting the commodity chain plans, now "farmers are waiting for something concrete", said Christiane Lambert, president of the FNSEA, on Monday before a handful of journalists.
Despite the signing of a charter of good conduct in November by all distributors, "Predators are free again, and do not care about the commitments made before the Minister of Agriculture, Stéphane Travert, and Benjamin Griveaux" (then Secretary of State for the Economy), lamented the president of France's largest agricultural union.
"Anyone who doesn't change their practices in the current negotiations, while legislation is being prepared, still runs the risk that the law will be more restrictive"The President of the Chambers of Agriculture, Claude Cochonneau, has been informed.
All the participants in the Estates General are also waiting to find out how the 5 billion euros of the agricultural investment plan that President Macron wanted to see distributed "quickly, that is to say within the next six months, in direct link with the regions" will be distributed.
In addition to these much-awaited measures, the second workshop of the Etats Généraux de l'Alimentation was an opportunity for all parties to set out their vision of what the agriculture of the future should be like.
"It was daring to bring together all the agricultural trade unions, industrialists, retailers and NGOs, admits the coordinator of the Estates General, Olivier Allain, who assures that there was a "form of unanimity on the method".
Thus, measures concerning training, waste, or food safety were easily agreed upon, reported several participants in the 14 workshops.
Workshop 11 on ecological transition "was not naturally unifying and consensual", admits its co-chair, Deputy Dominique Potier.
"The principle of an agro-ecological transition has been established fairly quickly," he explained to AFP, and discussions have focused on the modalities and pace of this transition.
Environmental associations are waiting for the announcement of a plan to get out of pesticides, in line with the Ecophyto II plan, with solutions to get out of glyphosate in three years, as announced by Emmanuel Macron.
"A great deal of work has been done to relaunch Ecophyto II in a slightly stronger way with mandatory objectives to be achieved, explains François Veillerette, spokesperson for Générations Futures.
"Everyone has their foot on the accelerator", in the agricultural profession to use less phytosanitary products, but "the numerical objectives are stupid", said the president of the FNSEA, recalling the fiasco of the Ecophyto I plan which promised to halve the use of phytosanitary products by 2018.
Faced with the extent of the subjects dealt with during these few months, the association France Nature Environnement (FNE) is asking the government for "the assurance that after these announcements, we will have a second phase in January where we will work on the coherence between the conclusions of the Estates General and the different actions that (the government) is going to put in place," Camille Dorioz explained to AFP.
"The aim is to find coherence" between legislative actions, channel plans, and all the other action plans that will be implemented in the ministries.
A number of measures are already in place, such as contracts based on production costs, organisation into commodity chains, and the rise of organic farming, all of which will be decided by ordinance in spring 2018. Here are the main announcements made by Emmanuel Macron in mid-October, halfway through the Etats Généraux de l'Alimentation:
- Orders in the first half of the year will provide for contracts between farmers and their customers (distributors, manufacturers) to be based on the cost price proposed by the farmer.
- For the year-end trade negotiations, stakeholders are asked to commit to reflecting "the spirit of the law to come" under the aegis of the government. To this end, a charter of good conduct was signed in mid-November with the Ministry of Agriculture, but Coop de France and the FNSEA pointed out its ineffectiveness.
- The commercial negotiations must be part of a contractualization (establishment of contracts) multiannual from 3 to 5 years, wishes the President of the Republic.
- In order to establish these production costs, sector by sector, "market indicators must be defined" with also a strengthening of the Observatory of Prices and Margins as well as standard contracts, according to Emmanuel Macron. The role of the mediator of agricultural trade relations will also be strengthened.
- Mr. Macron said he was "in favour of raising the threshold for resale at a loss (RPS) for food products and of regulating promotions", but added that he was not prepared to sign a "blank cheque".
- The raising of the PRS will be included in the ordinances for the first half of 2018, but the president asks in return that all the actors conclude sector plans by the end of the year. Depending on the sector (milk, cereals, chicken, etc.), this could consist of either restructuring, or investing to move up-market, or moving towards new marketing methods such as short circuits or collective catering. These sector plans should also "ensure (...) the move upmarket around labels, quality signs, organic products with five-year targets".
- It also reaffirmed its campaign commitment that eggs sold to consumers should come only from free-range farms by 2022.
- Farmers are asked to form inter-professions that can carry weight in the negotiations. In view of the concerns about possible infringements of competition law, Mr. Macron hopes that the Competition Authority will be able to respond to the requests of the inter-professions by explaining the precise legal framework.
- Co-operatives will be encouraged to be more transparent in the distribution of their earnings to their members. They will also be required to "separate advice from sales" to give farmers more independence from pesticide manufacturers.
- It reaffirmed its commitment to campaign for a rate of 50% of organic or local products in collective catering in 2022.
Will the objective of getting France out of the agricultural crisis while initiating the ecological transition achieve its goal? Verdict in 48 hours.

(Source: AFP)

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