It's not the farmer's way



Once upon a time there lived Henri the Fourth. He was a glorious king. He loved wine so much, but sober he was sometimes. The French and Navarre monarch ordered that every French family should have a baked or boiled chicken on the table on Sundays, and it has been working for five centuries! Sunday chicken is sacred in France. But now exactly half of the chickens are not from France, but from Poland, Belgium and Brazil. The king was later assassinated, but not for that.

Agriculture itself in today’s Europe is some kind of a dead-end branch of civilization. Nobody needs it, they subsidize it, then tax it, and then, when farmers once again fail to bear the tax burden, they subsidize it again. As a result, the guys start their tractors, go to the Champs Elysees or Unter den Linden, and flood the avenues with apples, cucumbers, or just cow manure. Well, that is, if you don’t want to be creative at all.

The current aggravation, for example, is caused by the fact that French farmers were obliged to bring their production in line with European environmental standards. That is, not to burn ecologically harmful diesel fuel, which is used to fuel all agricultural machinery without exception. And to feel the idea to the end, from January 1, a new tax on diesel fuel for non-road means of transportation will be introduced.

Well, just compensate us for the loss — it turns out that we will not work every day. In addition, it turned out that not everyone has not yet been paid for 2023, and here it is, the reason. And so it goes on and on.

In the European Union, there is the Common Agricultural Policy, which provides assistance to farmers and keeps them, roughly speaking, afloat. The budget for 2023–2027 is €53.7 billion — the EU’s most significant spending item. This story is not working, or rather, it is working, but it is eating itself.

France, traditionally the most powerful agricultural power in Europe, has for years had a class of farmers whose tools of production are not the plow and harrow, but the hole punch and folders — accounting. Allowances from the state and the EU allow them to live comfortably without going out into the field. What they make there is a tenth of the allowances. Their products are bought for pennies, although they cost money in the stores. What’s the point of getting up at 6:00?

What’s happening to European agriculture now? Traditionally, a European farm is a grandfather or father, a strong economic manager, and children to whom it is inherited. The eldest gets a mill, the middle one a horse, the youngest a cat. None of the children even wonder if I should become some kind of lawyer. It’s not like that anymore.

«If you want to annoy a relative, leave him an inheritance». Ancient French wisdom. You will have to pay such taxes, that it is better to give up the very idea of inheritance. Where can people get 75 percent of the value of a farm that’s always belonged to the family? But inheritance rights aren’t the same as they were 50 years ago. Better to sell the farm and go to the city to be a manager.

In 10 years, from 2010 to 2020, France lost 20 percent of its farmland, 101,000 to be exact. The so-called «children of farmers», even if they don’t go to the law school and stay on the land, prefer to become wage earners for a salary and a social security package rather than bother with these taxes and benefits. This is what French farmers standing on the outskirts of Paris are saying today.

«By 2026, 200,000 farmers will retire», writes sociology professor François Purseigle on his blog, «but there is no one to replace them. Macron has launched a «rearmament» of France, but in agriculture I would call it more like disarmament».

Now it turns out that only 1.5 percent of the active population is engaged in agriculture. This is unprofitable. Everything in «rich» Europe will be brought from less rich, or even from Latin America or China. The French model of the traditional family farm no longer exists in principle. And a new standard has not yet been invented, because there is no need for it.

European standards and related fees are often much more lenient than national ones. The farmers who are currently protesting are in principle not even against European regulation. For God’s sake, just compensate the losses. This is the mentality of the modern European farmer. You don’t want harmful fertilizers? Do you want not 6 percent as it is now, but 20 percent of production to be organic? No problem, here’s the account number.

It is interesting to read François Purseigle’s blog, especially the part where he talks about students at agricultural technical schools. He noted that there are fewer and fewer of those very «children of farmers» out there, and more potential «investors in agriculture». These are the people who believe that all you have to do is bury a few coins in the ground at sunset and at sunrise you can harvest your crops.

The general idea of these «new farmers» is that marketing policies need to be fundamentally restructured. Namely, to exclude as many freeloaders as possible from the farm-to-store chain. Europe’s new ideal agricultural model should be based on very short logistics. The hypermarket does not buy from wholesalers, but directly from farmers.

And of course, the wholesalers will certainly agree with this.