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momagri, movement for a world agricultural organization, is a think tank chaired by Christian Pèes.
It brings together, managers from the agricultural world and important people from external perspectives,
such as health, development, strategy and defense. Its objective is to promote regulation
of agricultural markets by creating new evaluation tools, such as economic models and indicators,
and by drawing up proposals for an agricultural and international food policy.
Focus on issues

“From hereditary tenure to protecting the farmer”: land issues from a historical point of view!

Momagri Editorial Board

January 16, 2017

While the evolution of the CAP is at the heart of current debate, the regulations on access to land remain a major issue for farmers. In France, over two thirds of agricultural land is rented: farmers are more likely to be tenants than owners of the land they cultivate. The relationship between farmer and land owner have been governed since 1945 by the statute of tenant farming, which, notably, by controlling land rent, acts as an important asset for the competitiveness of French agriculture
1. In addition to the statute of tenant farming, the action of SAFER (organization for agricultural and land planning) along with building inspection make up the agricultural land policy by subjecting the distribution of land to various rules and objectives, including generation renewal.

Faced for more than two decades with the same wind of liberalization as agricultural policies that support agricultural incomes and market stabilization, French land policies are sometimes presented as an outdated, obsolete or even a shameful French exception. This is not the case, quite the contrary. This is the conclusion reached by Frédéric Courleux and Dimitri Liorit in their long-term (from the early Middle Ages) study of land tenure policies in six European countries (Germany, England, Spain, France, Italy, Poland), which has been summarized in an article recently published in the Cahiers du Pôle Foncier (rural land research centre) that you can consult by clicking on the link at the end of this article.

This two-part article is presented chronologically in 4 sections on the evolution of land tenure policies and regimes over the period, with a generic analysis grid representing a land policy via the limitations on the right to cultivate. Motives common to all 6 countries studied are thus highlighted. Particularly noteworthy is the powerful activism for the protection of farmers that prevailed in England from the 1880s, far from the naïve view of the famous Corn Laws, which are often presented as the main English concept of agriculture. There is also a definite continuity between medieval hereditary tenure which in particular has resisted in France making the farmers of the old regime owners since year one, and the tenant farming of 1945 to transferability limited to the family itself.

Finally, this article proposes some clues to understanding the land issue at a time when it seems to be coming topical again.


1 Sur ce point voir l’article « Augmentation de la part des terres agricoles en location : échec ou réussite de la politique foncière ? » et l’article « La politique foncière agricole : atout ou contrainte pour la compétitivité de l’agriculture française ? »

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