Between 1990 and 2018, the agricultural labor force was halved. The profession, which today represents less than 3% of the workforce and 1% of the total population, is aging and struggling to renew itself. France will still have a quarter of fewer farmers within ten years if nothing is done to slow the trend, while the transition to a resilient food system requires more and more diversified farms, and practices. more labor intensive.
State of affairs
WHO WILL CULTURE OUR LAND?
A declining profession, with farms growing in size
With around 824,000 regular agricultural workers in 2016, the sector represents one in thirty workers in France, against one in six in 1970 and nearly one in three in 1950 . 43% of the 564,000 farmers and associates are over 55 in 2016, and will therefore reach retirement age in the next decade. At the current rate of settlements, less than half of these departures will be offset, and a quarter of the number of farmers looming by 2030(Figure 13).
Figure 13: Evolution of the number of farms in France over the past 150 years, and trend projection for the decade 2020-2030: a quarter of farms risk disappearing. Source : Les Greniers d’Abondance, Duby et Wallon (1977) et Agreste (2019).
When a farm is not passed on, its land is usually used to expand a neighboring farm. Every day in France, an average of 22 farms are not transmitted. The number of farms fell by a third between 2000 and 2016 .
Aerial views of the town of Bazoches-les-Gallerandes (Loiret) on the same scale, in 1954 (left) and in 2016 (right). As elsewhere in the Beauce plain, the agricultural population has fallen sharply and the land has undergone successive consolidation. Small plots, often less than a hectare, have merged into large open fields of several tens or hundreds of hectares. Crédits : IGN, Remonter le temps.
This development deeply affects the structure and functioning of agricultural holdings. The trend is towards the concentration of land and productive capital, which in general goes hand in hand with increased mechanization and intensification of cultivation practices. Farms of more than 100 hectares now cover three quarters of French agricultural territory. (Figure 14).
Figure 14 : Distribution of the national agricultural area by farm size, and change in the rate of direct land tenure In the space of twenty years, the area occupied by farms of more than 100 ha has increased from less than 25% to nearly by 60%. Source : Léger-Bosch (2015).
The installation and its difficulties
Installation and its difficulties Previously, farms were mostly taken over by the descendants of farmers. Today, two thirds of installations are done "outside the family" . This confronts the organizations historically involved in the installation of new farmers with new issues. From this point of view, the role of Land Development and Rural Establishment Societies (SAFER) and Chambers of Agriculture is key:
While the agricultural world as a whole agrees on the need to renew the profession, contradictory political issues within management bodies sometimes hamper their initial missions . The Court of Auditors thus noted in 2014 that only a very small part of the property retroceded by SAFER was to young farmers, and added: "their management remains very controlled by the agricultural world, in particular the majority union, the FNSEA".
The Installation Departure Directory - a tool for listing transfer projects kept up to date by the Chambers of Agriculture - only lists the operators actively involved in the transfer of their farm. Sales are conventionally concluded "between neighbors", and, due to a lack of a competitor's file already established, the SAFERs rarely use their pre-emption capacity. When they do occur (at the express request of a community, an association or a project leader), the deadlines granted by the award committees are often insufficient for project leaders outside the family.
The agricultural profession is not valued socially and often conveys the image of a difficult and low-paying profession. Despite these obstacles, vocations persist and candidates for installation continue to carry their projects. However, these now face several obstacles, in particular for people - the majority - not from an agricultural background :
- Lack of awareness of ceding owners , who are often more inclined to cede their land to their neighbors;
- Discrepancy between the type of project proposed and the farms put on the market . Candidates often have diverse projects requiring small surfaces, and rarely wish to take over all of the farm's production tools as they are;
-Very high financial value of farms (land, livestock, buildings, agricultural equipment). Current operations are often very capital intensive and therefore inaccessible to candidates for takeover (insufficient borrowing capacity or refusal to take on excessive debt when setting up). In addition, when the takeover involves restructuring the farm (change of activity, use of land or buildings) or mobilizing capital, the takeover project is defective by the seller's desire to sell quickly; br /> - Prior difficulty in identifying commercial outlets : this is an important condition for having your installation project validated and for making unconventional installations sustainable.
What links with resilience?
Without farmers, it is impossible to aim for the slightest food autonomy in a territory. The number of agricultural workers is already very low: beyond simple renewal, an absolute increase in the number of peasants is essential in order to move farms towards a more resilient model . This would bring more modularity to the local agricultural network, more adaptability, greater work capacity and therefore less dependence on fossil fuels. The size of farms could decrease, facilitating the establishment and maintenance of infrastructure of ecosystem interest and the dissemination of agroecological practices, which are more intensive in labor.
The number of agricultural installations must become greater than the number of departures in the territory. Whenever possible, the transferred holdings must be transferred to one or more buyers . The profession must also be attractive to non-farm workers and to people whose agricultural work combines with other professional activities.
This requires the development of a comprehensive policy on which the public authorities and those involved in land management and settlement agree . Its implementation must allow:
- to give greater visibility to the possibilities of takeovers; to accompany the different parties during transmissions;
- facilitate restructuring of farms;
- access to production tools for project leaders whose contributions are low;
- host diversified agricultural projects, responding to the challenges of food production and agroecology (see ways of resilience n ° 6 and n ° 7 ).
The renewal of the agricultural population, the reception of people not from this environment and the sharing of land, promote the diversity of cultures and practices, as well as the quality of the landscapes. This increases the food supply in the territory and the possibilities to relocate consumption.
More generally, the dynamism and local life of the territory are improved.
Decision-making bodies within SAFERs and Chambers of Agriculture include various representatives of the agricultural sector and the rural world. They can defend private interests, development plans or visions of agriculture opposed to the food resilience project carried by communities
Access to decent housing now poses difficulties for settling farmers. Farmers who retire sometimes retain their habitat on the farm. Finding accommodation near the facility is often difficult. Light forms of housing then developed on farms in often precarious conditions with regard to the legislation. Faced with these problems, local elected officials have an important role to play in promoting access to housing in rural areas: municipal housing, bridging housing, agricultural hamlets, etc.
Acceptability by owners
Strong communication from the community on a very proactive land policy and in particular acquisition can weaken dialogue with the agricultural profession, depending on the strength of the feeling of private property, agricultural inheritances in the region.
- Evolution of the agricultural population
- Average age of farmers in the area
- Evolution of the number of farms