A Naroques

Return to earth – farming in France

In the immediate, there was a tough decision to be taken. In the end I decided that it would have been pointless to cancel the last applications of pesticides and let everything die. So I reluctantly agreed to go ahead but with the dosage as reduced as possible. These chemicals are bought from the same people who sell the seeds, companies which are still called Cooperatives even though they’re now branches of large agri-business concerns. The salesmen are called ‘technicians’. The farmers I know have a knowledge of their fields, soil and weather that a visiting technician can’t hope to hold a candle to. Nevertheless a hierarchy has been established and it’s amazing how reliably the farmer will defer to the advice of the technician then buy from him the product his advice required.

I handed over a cheque for the pesticides. Watching what happened next brought home two things. The first was seeing people don full protective clothing to prepare a mixture that was being sprayed onto wheat which would be bread within a month. The second was that, after harvest, I had to settle the accounts of a years cycle of wheat production grown the ‘conventional’ way. Once I’d paid for the seeds, chemicals, fertilisers, man with the combine, tractor and fuel costs, there was nothing left. Literally. So the only profit for 1/4 of the land on the farm (50 acres) which had yielded 120 tonnes of wheat would be my payments from the Common Agricultural Policy of around £150 per Hectare, £3000 in total.

From this point I understood why it is that despite the number of E.U. and US farmers getting smaller and smaller, they’ve managed to secure larger and larger government subsidies. I’d wondered why so few votes were worth chasing with so much money. Now it was clear that the subsidies are not for the benefit of the farmers. They’re lobbied for by agribusiness ; chemical and fertiliser companies, farm machinery manufacturers, oil companies. Because without these subsidies, their clientele would be unable to buy their products. Global food brands and supermarkets are also in on the lobbying game. Farm subsidies means they can buy at artificially cheap prices. As the reality of the state of our farm began to bite, I would come to to understand that the agriculture this lobbying sustains means malnutrition and toxic residues in our food and has depleted our soil so much that much of our farmland is within a generation of giving its last harvest.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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