This Thursday, May 17, the deputies approved an article of the agricultural bill which plans to confer on agriculture a character of “major general interest”, a legal innovation supposed to respond to a request from farmers, but whose opposition contests the scope. “The protection, enhancement and development of agriculture and fishing are of major general interest as they guarantee the agricultural and food sovereignty of the Nation, which contributes to the defense of its fundamental interests,” states this key article of the bill.

The commitment was made by Emmanuel Macron at the Agricultural Show, while the anger of farmers was in full swing. “On a legal level, it positions agriculture in balance with the environment,” approved Arnaud Rousseau, president of the FNSEA, the first agricultural union. “This will produce, in the long term, effects in the way in which different public policy objectives can be weighted, and in the way in which, on the ground, agricultural projects can be evaluated, carried out and developed,” said affirmed the Minister of Agriculture Marc Fesneau.

Several deputies – like lawyers – however doubt its scope. The measure “creates the fantasy of calling into question the environmental charter” and “gives the illusion to the peasant world that we have responded in a demagogic way to all these expectations of being above the rest of the standards, of law,” criticized Dominique Potier (PS). Nicole Le Peih, Renaissance rapporteur, admitted that it was a “legal innovation” which did not “modify the hierarchy of standards”.

“There is no questioning of the constitutional principle of environmental protection” but “when several legislative provisions are present, or even contradictory, agriculture will henceforth be the subject of specific attention” , she argued.

The article also offers a long definition of France’s food and agricultural sovereignty, based in particular on its capacity to “produce, transform and distribute” the products necessary for “sufficient, healthy (and) safe food”. It also lays down the principle “by July 1, 2025 then every ten years of multi-annual programming for agriculture”. The rest consists mainly of a long list of good practices that public policies are supposed to follow to ensure this “food sovereignty”.

Above all, the article allowed each group to put forward its vision of agriculture, and the presidential camp to play the co-construction card. It integrated certain objectives proposed by Les Républicains (justify and evaluate overtranspositions before implementing them, promote women farmers) or the left (improve the working conditions of farmers, develop health prevention).

But the article “has no normative value” and brings “no constraints”, lamented Sébastien Jumel (PCF). Aurélie Trouvé (LFI), denounced the absence of measures for “floor prices”. “It’s a caricature,” retorted Henri Alfandari (Horizons), believing that farmers were also asking for clarity on their missions. The article sets out “intentions which encourage”, for Julien Dive (LR). The RN deputies castigated the lack of support for their amendments.