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Pathway to resilience n ° 1: Increase the agricultural population

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


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:

- Les SAFER are non-profit public limited companies, under state supervision, for the management of rural land. Their objective is in particular to promote the installation of young farmers, to boost the agricultural and forestry economy, to protect landscapes and agricultural land and to provide land solutions to local development projects.
- In addition to their role of representing and defending the interests of the agricultural world, Chambers of Agriculture have public service missions delegated by the State. Among them, the management of files for the creation or cessation of agricultural activity and the coordination of all actions linked to the installation, such as the animation of the Installation Reception Points (PAI) or the Planning Development Centers. of Personalized Professionalization (CEPPP).

En savoir plus sur les SAFER

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?

Associated threats : collapse of wild and cultivated biodiversity, depletion of energy and mining resources

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 ).

Levers of action

LEVER 1 : Carry out a diagnosis and land watch on disposal projects

- Carry out a detailed diagnosis of the active agricultural population: age groups, initial projects, transferability of farms: land owned or rented, farm and residential buildings, etc. ;
- Improve the Start Installation Directory so that it lists more cedants and gives more details on farms. This directory is in fact not exhaustive and presents a fixed view of the farms to be taken over, without considering their potential for restructuring;
- Build a system for monitoring project leaders upon transfer or installation, and non-operating landowners keen to allow installation. The success of the system depends on the ability to finance its animation over time;
- Conclude a land monitoring agreement with SAFER, which has developed the Vigifoncier tool to inform the sale of goods in the territory.

On the website Vigifoncier, local authorities have access to two modules: the "land watch" provides real-time information on current land transactions, and the "observatory" groups together indicators on the land dynamics of the territory.

The renewal of agricultural assets is at the heart of the action of the Livradois-Forez Regional Natural Park (PNR), in Auvergne. From 2000, agricultural land diagnoses were carried out on the cessation of activities without a buyer. Source: Terre de Liens (2018). Credits: PNR of Livradois-Forez.

The GrandAngoulême agglomeration community (Charente) has held meetings with the Charente Chamber of Agriculture with farmers over the age of 57 (i.e. half of the farmers), with the aim of making them aware of the issues of transmission. The local elected representatives have been trained in these questions, as direct contacts with the operators.

LEVER 2 : Support transmission of land ownership by supporting and bringing together local actors and networks

Once the future sellers have been identified, they must be put in touch with buyers, to prepare the transfers . Several structures, such as Chambers of Agriculture (Installation Reception Points) and local InPACT clusters deploy dedicated tools for this support. Local authorities can relay their initiatives, provide technical or financial support, and unite these players . Levers to activate include:
- the meeting of all farmers nearing retirement to make them aware of the issues of transmission, with relay actors trained in the process;
- the organization of "installation-transmission cafes" or open doors on farms;
- a diagnosis of preparation for the transfer and support for the transfer. This is to pay attention to the wishes of the transferors (place of life, financial matters, future of their operation, etc.) and to facilitate the administrative and financial procedures of the buyers.

The InPACT poles (Initiatives for Citizen and Territorial Agriculture) bring together many players in local agricultural development. The installation of new farmers and the transfer of farms is one of their major activities. Communities can support their actions and link them with those of other structures in the agricultural world (Chambers, cooperatives, etc.).

The organisation Abiosol brings together several structures with the aim of collectively supporting organic farming project leaders in Île-de-France: access to land, test space, training, networking with professionals, technical and administrative support. Communities can inform this group of actors of their voluntarism in terms of agricultural installation in order to initiate joint projects.

LEVER 3 : Reserve land and systematically prioritize installation

Placing land in reserve makes it possible to lengthen sale times and facilitate installations. This involves acquiring a property for a limited period before transferring it to a candidate: project leader, collective property structure such as Terre de Liens, or agricultural land group. The candidates thus have time to consolidate their project (loans, collective acquisition, installation course, training, etc.). Storage also makes it possible, in certain cases, to constitute a sufficient land unit for an installation, from a fragmented plot.

To reserve land, communities can:
- establish an agreement with the SAFER, which have a right of pre-emption on agricultural land ;
- themselves use an urban pre-emption right (DPU) on urban areas and “to be urbanized” of the Local Urban Planning Plan (PLU), and on specific sectors such as the close protection perimeters of drinking water collection.

Land is now placed on properties for sale. It is not widely used for rented land, which nevertheless constitutes the most widespread form of land tenure. It is therefore important to expand these tools to set aside rented land .

In the Charente, the SCIC Terres en Chemin provides tools for setting aside farmland when a farmer retires. The SCIC takes the lease of the land from the previous tenant, and maintains it while waiting to assign the lease. Crédits : © Terres en Chemin.

LEVER 4 : Make land available

- Carry out an inventory of unbuilt public land. Communities that already own agricultural land made available to farmers with a precarious or commodat lease, can upgrade these leases to a Rural Environmental Lease (BRE), and gradually install project leaders in short circuits. Water agencies can be partners: installing an organic farmer above a water catchment area effectively reduces pollution.
- Carry out a detailed inventory of plots to identify communal land suitable for a professional activity (public or private property, irrigation possibilities, agronomic quality of the soil, access), or to the non-professional agriculture (home gardens, shared gardens, etc.). Such a diagnosis can be entrusted to SAFER.
- Fallow land can be reclaimed by applying the "vacant and ownerless property" procedure , which makes it possible to integrate "abandoned" property into the municipal heritage.

LEVER 5 : Acquire land

When the local community does not own agricultural land, acquiring land is a first step in demonstrating its commitment. It can join civil society in a real estate cooperative society (SCCI), or take shares in a real estate company such as Terre de Liens. It can make residents aware of the usefulness of this type of savings.

On the Yeu island (Vendée), the Société Coopérative Civile Immobilière (SCCI) Terres Islaises offers the opportunity to any natural or legal person to become co-owner and co-manager of land and agricultural buildings through the acquisition of shares. Credits: © Terres Islaises.

LEVER 6 : Develop the activity test

Agricultural test spaces are tools designed to facilitate the creation of an agricultural business by project leaders who are often not from the agricultural world. They provide candidates with a legal framework for practice, means of production (land, equipment, buildings) and a technical and administrative support system. They can be set up by communities on ephemeral or permanent sites, or by farmers on a small portion of their land.

To facilitate installation, communities can put project leaders in touch with canteen managers or local intermediaries and businesses to provide them with outlets. They can also practice the reduction of the property tax on unbuilt properties for young farmers.

Side benefits

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.


Political conflicts

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

Farmer housing

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

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Pathway to resilience n ° 2: Preserving agricultural land