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Marc Fesneau: Agriculture will be national ‘major general interest’

March 28, 2024…

At the annual congress of the main French Farmers’ Union, Agriculture Minister Marc Fesneau outlined in broad strokes the upcoming law on agriculture and took stock of the current and forthcoming national and EU measures in response to farmers’ protests.

Nearly two months after the government announced 62 French and European proposals, the farmers’ union FNSEA was eagerly awaiting the minister’s speech.

Marc Fesneau

Fesneau came up with “concrete” measures and a timetable to reassure farmers.

“In just two months, we have made unprecedented progress and […] we have speeded up our efforts to change the software at both national and European level”, he told the union’s members on (Thursday 28 March).

Agricultural policy law

Fesneau listed the measures already taken, such as tax support – on diesel in particular – and financial aid – for climatic events or epizootic haemorrhagic disease (EHD) for livestock farmers.

He illustrated the general lines of the agricultural orientation law, which will be presented to the government on Wednesday (3 April) and examined by Parliament in early May.

The minister said he hopes the law will be voted on in June so that concrete application can be felt on farms from autumn onwards.

“I’m saying this to the members of parliament who are present, the debate will have to enable us to go further and simplify everything that can be simplified,” Fesneau insisted.

The text also includes agriculture as a “major general interest” for France, which will make it possible in the longer term to make agriculture a priority for the country’s actions.

Penalties for environmental offences, he promised, will be reviewed because “they are disproportionate”.

Simplification of the CAP

The minister spoke at length about the work in Brussels on the simplification of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy and welcomed the review of some of the CAP green measures validated on Tuesday (26 March) by the Council of Ministers.

“You’ve been waiting for this, it’s a major simplification”, said Fesneau, who promised that these measures would be applied in 2024 and “for the entire period of the current CAP”.

“The political priority now is to ensure that the European Parliament, in turn, adopts these new measures by the end of April, and I’m fully committed to making sure that happens,” he added.

Trade policy

He also insisted on finding the “right balance” between the “export vocation” of France and the EU, and the “need to protect” producers from unfair competition.

“Food sovereignty means setting the conditions at national, European and international level to ensure that our agriculture remains a factor of economic power, and of power in general,” he said.

This is why, he explained, France opposes the EU’s trade agreements with Mercosur and Australia, which apply production practices that the bloc prohibits on its soil.

On the subject of Ukrainian exports, he reiterated France’s willingness to support Kyiv but stressed this solidarity has its “limits”.

France, Poland and other countries were calling for greater protection of wheat, and for establishing the average volumes of imports from 2021 to 2023 as a threshold to trigger automatic safeguard measures.

The member states, however, partially agreed on the 2021-23 reference period only, but wheat was not included in the sensitive sectors.

While the Ukrainian Agribusiness Club (UCAB) members said in a press release that they “are concerned” about the long discussion on safeguard measures, six associations of EU farmers and food producers defined the Council compromise as “only a half step forward”.

European Egalim

To ensure that European agriculture regains its “strength”, Fesneau also called for greater harmonisation of rules within the EU.

A “European Egalim” – named after the French laws – is one of the levers proposed by France to guarantee an income for European farmers and rebalance trade negotiations with supermarkets and manufacturers.

On Tuesday, interviewed on France Inter, Fesneau said he was satisfied to see that this proposal was gaining ground in Brussels. He announced that he had discussed it with his German colleague, Cem Özdemir, and the European Commissioner for Agriculture, Janusz Wojciechowski, who said he was interested in the initiative…

By Hugo Struna,

Source: euractiv.com

About İsmail Uğural

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