April 18. 2024. 9:45

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New French agricultural law puts food sovereignty on an equal footing with environmental protections

Following a promise made to protesting farmers, Paris presented a new draft of the agriculture law focusing on food sovereignty and making it a priority of EU and national public policy, putting it on equal footing with environmental sustainability.

Agriculture Minister Marc Fesneau presented a new draft of the agricultural policy law to the French Council of Ministers today (3 April).

The law “puts food sovereignty at the heart of parliamentary and public debate” as a “structuring element of public policy,” officials of the French Agriculture Ministry told journalists at a briefing on Tuesday.

The bill aims to direct French agriculture development in the coming years, it has been anticipated for many months, but repeatedly postponed.

The first version was presented in December 2023, before protests forced the government to withdraw and change the draft.

European sovereignty and ‘major general interest’

The proposed law keeps some of the promises made by the French executive on the removal of tax on diesel fuel used in agriculture, and various administrative simplifications.

It enshrines agricultural sovereignty in Article One as a priority for the future, and a funding element of political action.

The aim is to ensure food and biomass production stimulating the generational renewal in farming and its adaptation to climate change.

Agricultural and food sovereignty are aligned with the European and international legal framework, government officials told Euractiv, emphasising that France’s export needs are totally integrated into the common market.

In the law, agriculture, fisheries, and aquaculture are defined areas of “major general interest.”

According to the French ministry, this will enable “greater consideration to be given to agriculture and food sovereignty,” in public policies, to make them a priority and redress the balance of power, particularly in relation to the environment, which has already been granted this legal status since 1986.

“In the long term, this will provide orientation for administrative courts, when agriculture is weighed up against other types of priorities,” ministry sources added.

An article in the bill aims to “speed up court decision-making in the event of litigation against projects that […] contribute to food sovereignty.”

Reduced penalties for environmental damage

This legal tool will be strengthened by another article aimed at reducing penalties for farmers who cause environmental damage, which the ministry considers to be often “disproportionate”, “slanderous”, and “humiliating”.

“We’re not going to send a farmer to prison for trimming his hedge at the wrong time,” Fesneau said a few days earlier at the FNSEA congress. for the French farmers’ union.

The law will also adapt the scale of penalties, notably by replacing criminal sanctions with administrative penalties.

Fesneau’s team added that the bill would give farmers more weight on the assessment of infrastructural projects by public authorities, just as many hydraulic engineering or livestock facility projects, are struggling to get off the ground because of their potential environmental impact.

The bill will be examined by the National Assembly on 13 May, and then by the Senate in the second half of June, with final adoption scheduled before the summer.

French minister: Agriculture will be national ‘major general interest’

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.

Read more with Euractiv

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