After speculators and investors rediscovered raw materials and agricultural lands as lucrative investments, are French intellectuals now turning agriculture into the new fashionable subject?
It is true that agriculture concentrates many social issues: from the quality of food to the protection of our environment and our landscapes, from the transmission of culture and traditions, to growth and employment, to which agriculture and the agro-food industry, let’s not forget, significantly contribute....
But why has agriculture suddenly become a fashionable subject of discussion? Simply because it might well call into question the blind policies for liberalisation of recent years.
And behind these words, there are subjects that the French understand very well: relocation, a diminution in buying power, the need for regulation. ... But do they know that ...:
... For example, Agriculture is the last sector that has not undergone the practice of relocating its industry. Even if the recent massive investment in land located in Eastern Europe, Africa ... prefigures the concentration of agricultural production in regions of the world where competitiveness is based largely on social, environmental or even land dumping?
The answer is no! Hence the need to explain to the French that farmers, at their level, lead the same combat for their jobs, incomes and more broadly, for the regulation of the economic system.
... Farmers, more than in any other profession, have seen a considerable deterioration in their income which amounts to more than 20% in ten years?
... Agriculture is now in the grip of a trend towards deregulation and liberalization without any regard to its strategic nature on food?
French grain farmers, through the intermediary of PASSION CEREALS, are aware and this is why they assembled behind several intellectuals and opinion leaders at the Board for social and environmental economy last 16th February. These "celebrities of the French media» are, if one uses their own words "not really competent on the subject”, but obviously ready to play the game: understand to relay the urgency for action.
Below are some comments which tend towards the awareness necessary in favour of global governance to regulate markets in the interests of producers and consumers.
In a powerful speech, Henri Nallet, former Minister of Agriculture in 1985 and from 1988 to 1990, admitted that he "liberalized agriculture” with the admirable perspective of “lowering farm prices to make food cheaper”. Well, agricultural prices have collapsed, but not consumer prices. So, he was one of those "unwilling market auxiliaries”. "Unwilling" yes, but frighteningly efficient!
This public mea culpa is very courageous, as very rare in politics, but it is also a sign of the thought metamorphosis that is in progress.
He continued by stressing that "prices that triple in a few weeks, are not the result of a regulatory market”, but the manifestation of a malfunction which politics must address. This is why he advocates "acceptable systems for price stabilization".
If a majority agree on this today, momagri notes that the road is still long in order to reach a consensus on how to regulate agricultural markets.
Therefore, key concepts should be defined in order to "eliminate opposition" which has no place in today’s world :
- What does agriculture open to the world mean?
Incidentally, these issues also apply to other sectors: industry and services.
- What is competitive agriculture?
- As well as the protectionism of the 1970s and the liberalization advocated by the WTO, a 3rd avenue needs to be opened, one that takes into account environmental, social and food security objectives.
Other issues such as the implementation of a security reserve have caused debate between those who consider the idea "unrealistic and too expensive to fund," and those who see it as a tool to integrate into a global policy for risk management on the markets.
We are also very pleased that several ideas which momagri has been working on since 2005, were proposed during the meeting:
- "It should be accepted as a fundamental principle that land is a public asset, as is the climate”, Francois Rachline, director of the Institut Montaigne
The elements presented here are not exhaustive and other fascinating questions were addressed, including the links between environment and agriculture, the dangers of decline....
- "We face great uncertainty, [...] the word “world organisation” is the keyword for the years ahead”, Hervé Lorenzi, President of Circle of Economists.
- "Volatility arises from uncertainty, particularly for prices. What is the price of agriculture? "Francis Declerck, Professor, co-holder of the European Chair (ESSEC)
- To combat market volatility, "We must consider the possibility of a graduated response," Fabien Bova, CEO FRANCE AGRIMER
- "We must define what is meant by regulation", Carmel Cahill, Senior Advisor, head of Trade and Agriculture in OECD
- "There will be no European public power if there is no European agricultural policy. ..." "It is the nature of States not to let go of their food. ..." "there must be a global organization, which acts as a regulatory Assembly. " Dominique Reynié, CEO of the Foundation for Political Innovation
These debates need more in-depth cover in order to advance political reflection, here’s hoping, like Denis Tillinac 1 ,that "our leaders are aware of their role, it is important, it can be salutary”.
1 Article de Denis Tillinac « Plaidoyer pour un monde qui disparaît » MARIANNE du 13 au 19 février 2010