In the agricultural show, farmers without heirs

retirement. After a two-year halt due to COVID-19, the International Agricultural Show (SIA) re-opened its doors this February 26 at the Porte de Versailles in Paris. Among the favorite topics this year is “Transmission”. A quarter of the 390,000 farmers are over the age of 60 and will retire by the end of the decade. Altogether, 50 lakh hectares will change managers, with only 40% of farmers having their own land. These figures come from the last agriculture census which took place in 2020. Between the 2010 census and this one, 100,000 farms have disappeared. However, the “useful agricultural area” (UAA), i.e. 27 million hectares occupied by farming or livestock, has not decreased.

The number of farms has declined since 1970 compared to the increase in farm area. © Agreste

It is the size of the farms that have increased. Today it averages 69 hectares, that is, 14 hectares more than in 2010. When a farmer retires, in two out of three cases, his fields are taken over by neighbours. This movement of concentration will have dire consequences on the ecological transition that agriculture must undertake. According to Agriculture Minister Julian Denormandi, “69 hectares is human size compared to our German or American neighbors”, But upon closer inspection, this figure is misleading. According to the census, only farms that generate a gross income of more than 250,000 euros per year and extend over 100 hectares are going to increase in number. They now represent one of the five farms. Their surface area averages 136 hectares and they now cover 40% of the UAA. Non-existent in the beef, sheep and goat sectors, these large estates represent seven out of ten pig farms. At the same time, between 2010 and 2020, on an average, there has been a decrease of 31 percent in micro-holdings of 12 hectares.

Increasing farm size is preventing reduction in greenhouse gas emissions

Nothing seems to stop this phenomenon, with worrisome environmental, social and economic consequences. During the last census, figures had already shown that the 100,000 old peasants had no heirs. Ten years later, the terrible happened. “Nothing is done to help these youths who want to become farmers but who are not from rural areas or take land from their parents.Terre de Lions condemns the federation’s director Benjamin Durriz. For them, the investment and installation cost in the land is too high, regardless of their motivation. For two decades, Terre de Lyons has been trying to raise funds to help young people inherit. In this way about 300 farmers have got successors. a drop of water. Also, in its new report, the federation has called for a drastic change in policy.

This is because the current trend goes against the recommendations of the National Low-Carbon Strategy. The agriculture sector really must play its part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 45% by 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. The agricultural sector is responsible for 20% of France’s total emissions. Destruction of hedges to expand the surface of plots, use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, use of increasingly powerful machinery are the main sources of emissions in the region. “However, not a single farmer on the head of more than 100 hectares can do without large machinery, nor chemical fertilisers”, The administrator of Terre de Lions assures Pierre Fabre.

50% reduction in pesticides by 2030

This is confirmed by the census which shows that expansion strategies are not concerned with livestock but with farm crops. However, INRAE’s work in particular shows that only agricultural science has been able to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the region due to reductions in pesticides and chemical inputs (which the European Common Agricultural Policy calls for by 50%). 030), less mechanization and therefore a reduction in oil consumption by machines, and finally by improved organic life of the soil to increase its ability to store carbon.

Teres de Lyons fears that the coming decade will make the trend irreversible. With fewer than 300,000 farms, intensive agriculture will emerge as capable of cultivating only 27 million hectares, with farmers fearing these proponents of agriculture that create jobs and respect the environment. The strangest paradox surrounding “transmission” is that agricultural educational institutions are full. And nine out of ten students are not farmers’ children.

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