27 March 2017

Benoit Hamon's Salon of Agriculture interview, continued.

How will you make standards and regulations flexible?

There are domains where we need to establish standards and regulations: health, the environment.  The question is how to adopt these standards to the reality and the diversity of situations of farmers in their enterprises.  Standards can, in certain cases, amount to a constraint that's too strong.  We have to find a happy medium, something that permits an economic sector to orient itself, without at the same time destabilizing the participants.  It's often difficult to carry through changes in the modes of production.  Instead of normative policies, it would be preferable to adopt contractual policies, which assign objectives to participants.

Agricultural development policies must also be put in place.  The capacity for innovative uses of terrain should be rewarded, and practices that work well should be mutualized:  short circuit selling, group agriculture, or upgrading towards organic farming and production, for example.  National public policies should support these exemplary practices of farmers who have already begun their agrarian transition.

How can production be better distributed?

Eating healthily requires us to better compensate our farmers and stockbreeders.  I want to see our producers get a larger return on value at the agricultural upstream.*

Production is not distributed, it's organized around specific potentials and the climatic and natural conditions of every region.  Of course, it also stems from the choice of people and from their collective organization.  As I see it, the solutions really go through the strengthening of producers' organizations, so that they're in a position to negotiate on a level playing field with processors and distributors -- and that transparency in the price chain is assured.

Policies regarding quality, whether it's about products given a seal of quality or about organic farming, also contribute to a new management of production that's closer to a circular economy and a locally based agriculture.

Furthermore, it's relevant to note that we no longer have a legal mandate for apportionment of production, like production of milk and sugar.  The Left has always been in favor of quotas that will at the same time guarantee prices and assure a fair allotment of production across the country.

How do we better manage water resources?

As always, it's about finding the equilibrium between the preservation of the resource and its delivery. Water is an important resource for dry regions, without which neither life nor agriculture can thrive there.  It's incumbent on us to adapt agriculture to these arid ecosystems.  This is why I'm proposing the creation -- on the model of the coastlands conservatory -- of an Arable Lands Conservatory, whose mission will be to protect the health of agricultural lands. 

How do we hold back desertification?

The farm sector is destroying jobs, the number of enterprises is dropping, the youngest have more difficulties getting started, the oldest have the feeling of being marginalized in our society.  I will push for the land law to fight the concentration and grabbing of lands by the big firms, as a way to encourage the renewal of generations and assure them better access to the land.  The arable lands conservatory that I propose to create will also promote access to the land for peasants** wishing to work it.

Also, we need to have initiatives for developing the countryside that are shared with the rural world's other partners.  Rural areas should not be marginalized.  They bring an important potential for development -- including the production of foodstuffs, but also other goods (renewable energies, in particular) and services.  So many jobs proposed thanks to this diversification of activities in farm enterprises are, furthermore, immune to outsourcing.  To accompany this transition, I want to guarantee effective equality of all citizens before the public services, and make a priority of broadband access in rural areas.

*Literal translation of "amont."
**The French word "paysans" that Hamon uses is, I think, less pejorative than English "peasants."

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