According to the Ministry of Agriculture, French farmers’ incomes rose sharply in 2010 to reach €24,300––following the 2009 low amount of €11,300––even though they are now more impacted by price volatility in agricultural commodities than in the past.
While this progression is a positive sign of recovery for farmers, who were severely affected by the 2008 economic turmoil, the fact remains that farmers’ average incomes continue to follow a lowering trend––12 percent lower than those of 2007––and above all a downward propensity recorded since the late 1990s.
Put into broader historical perspective, the recent increase must be considered more as a temporary reaction to a bullish and turbulent environment of the 2010 agricultural markets, than as the onset of structural and long-lasting growth for farmers’ incomes.
Listing the specific features that distinguish agriculture from other economic sectors is an easy task, inasmuch they are many. Among them we can mention farmers’ impossibility to adapt production in progress, or even to foresee the quantity and quality of future crops, or the poor price elasticity of demand, since one will not eat twice as much bread if its price is halved.
These different specific features are turning agricultural markets into impure and flawed markets. This warrants a public structural policy that aims to best fill the deficiencies of markets in terms of effectiveness and food security, while giving them better price stability––guarantor of the balance and economic sustainability of agriculture.
Nicolas Sarkozy recently highlighted this during the G20 Summit when he said “Name me one other occupation where you can lose 30 percent of your income in any year! There is none.” The future of agriculture, which determines food security, the environment, economic growth and many other economic sectors, is above all influenced by farmers’ ability to produce in a sustainable way and to remain competitive thanks to appropriate investment. Let’s not forget that we cannot have agriculture without farmers, and that, as such, farmers are thus representing a strategic asset for our future.