What place for organic farming in France’s leading agricultural region?

What future for Breton agriculture? In the first agricultural region of France, the subject divides. It was even at the heart of the debates during the last regional elections. Because in recent years, the productivist model to which Brittany turned at the end of the Second World War has faltered. Criticized from all sides for its impact on the environment and animal welfare, Breton agriculture therefore knows itself at a turning point. André Sergent, president of the Regional Chamber of Agriculture, also recognizes that Brittany will have to “produce less”, and therefore better in the future. To become a “leader in eating well in Europe”, as its president Loïg Chesnais-Girard wishes, the region wants to accelerate its agroecological shift with production methods that are more respectful of the environment.

This notably involves the development of organic farming. In this area, Brittany, which welcomes from this Monday
the world organic congress (read box), however, is not lagging behind. According to figures from the Regional Federation of Agrobiologists of Brittany, it ranks sixth among French regions in terms of the number of organic farms which have tripled in ten years. It is even the first producing region of organic milk, vegetables and eggs. “The dynamic is strong in Brittany with more and more farmers wishing to settle or convert to organic”, welcomes Arnaud Lécuyer, vice-president in charge of agriculture in the region.

“We need remunerative prices”

While the government has set a target of 50% of farms in agroecology by 2040, there is still a lot of work to do, according to Charlotte Kerglonou. “Organic farming is gaining ground and that’s very good, but it’s still too timid in relation to the environmental emergency,” said the spokesperson for the Confédération paysanne en Ille-et-Vilaine, which produces organic milk in Try. We still subsidize far too much intensive agriculture by favoring large farms rather than small ones ”. In the region, there are also concerns about the consequences of the reform of the common agricultural policy (CAP), which is due to come into force in 2023. Manager of organic aid until now, the region will indeed lose control. certain subsidies from the European Union for the benefit of the State. “There is a risk that the momentum is slowed down and that farmers hesitate to get started,” said the elected official.

The issue of outlets may also give some pause for thought. “We don’t get into organic farming simply by ideology,” says Loïc Guines, president of the Ille-et-Vilaine chamber of agriculture and organic dairy farmer. It is also necessary that our profession makes us live with remunerative prices. On this point, Charlotte Kerglonou also believes that the state is not doing enough. “We are in a very liberal market with no tool to regulate prices,” she denounces.

Organic yes but also conventional

For a long time lagging behind, the communities seem finally decided to play the game and to support the local organic sectors. This can be seen in particular in school canteens where the share of organic products continues to increase on the plates. “Public procurement should allow organic farming to develop on a larger scale”, underlines Ludovic Brossard, elected official responsible for sustainable food in the city of Rennes.

If the share of organic is expected to increase in the coming years in the region, Brittany does not want to draw a line on its conventional agriculture. “We will remain a breeding ground with agriculture that continues to export,” says André Sergent. In the region, where agriculture is a divisive subject, the profession also wants to play the card of unity. “There is no organic farming on one side and conventional farming on the other,” says Loïc Guines. It is not by dividing that we will succeed. “

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