Common agricultural policy: France too timid on the environment?

This is the novelty of the next Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) which will apply from 2023: subject to respecting certain rules, each Member State must establish a national version of European policy through a National Strategic Plan. (PSN).

But the French copy, in the opinion of several official bodies, would be insufficient from an environmental point of view. In a report published at the end of October 2021, the Environmental Authority therefore recommends that the Ministry of Agriculture “Raise the level of ambition” of the PSN. Because the drawn trajectory, she insists, “Will not join by 2030” all other national policies on climate, water or biodiversity.

However, several indicators remain worrying in France, according to the Environmental Authority. Like water quality, “Degraded in many agricultural areas”, or the decrease in the number of common birds specific to agricultural environments by 38% between 1989 and 2018. However, underlines the advisory body: “The PSN project seems to have been built without elements to measure the progress made” by agricultural aid in the past.

The targeted HVE label

“We need data linking environmental effects to agricultural practices and policies”, agrees Hervé Guyomard, research director at the National Research Institute for Agriculture (INRAE). He and his colleagues at INRAE, he recalls, have long requested that information on greenhouse gas emissions or pesticides be added to the Agricultural Accounting Network (Rica).

In a second report released at the end of October, the Court of Auditors shares another criticism of the Environmental Authority on the High Environmental Value (HVE) label. Established at European level, the new “eco-regimes” make a quarter of aid conditional on environmental commitments. And at the second level of the system, the highest, France will offer identical premiums to organic farms and those certified HVE. However, as the Authority points out, the HVE is considered so unambitious from an environmental point of view that its specifications must be revised.

Most of these criticisms had already been raised during the discussions launched by the Ministry of Agriculture at the end of 2019. And, since the opinions of the Court of Auditors as of the Environmental Authority are only advisory, Minister Julien Denormandie does not should not review his copy immediately. “The CAP is not the only public policy in terms of agroecological transformation and its prism is also economic”, we recall in the entourage of the minister.

Public consultation

The PSN will be submitted for public consultation from November 13, before being sent to Brussels at the end of December. “The question is how vehement the Commission will be with the Member States in relation to the Green deal », emphasizes Aurélie Catallo, coordinator of the Pour une autre Pac platform, bringing together environmental protection associations. In the longer term, adds researcher Hervé Guyomard, the risk is to see France “Have severe adjustments imposed” if it cannot prove its environmental results.