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The agro-ecological plan

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The “revolutionary idea” of agro-ecology according to France’s minister for agriculture - The message behind the agro-ecological plan presented by Stéphane Le Foll and Marion Guillou on 12 June is that agriculture and competitiveness can go hand in hand. They describe their project as a “revolution”. Marion Guillou, a former president of INRA (French National Institute of Research in Agriculture), has been working on the agro-ecological project that was initiated by Stéphane Le Foll, France’s minister of agriculture, since December 2012. Her objective has been to identify levers for improving both economic and ecological performance. To achieve this, she has been supported by pioneers in France and abroad. With the assistance of researchers from INRA and officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, she has identified 35 performances and 203 practices that can be described as “agro-ecological” and that can be rolled out into areas such as the livestock and arable sectors, and soil management.

“It is a case-by-case type of approach, tailored to the individual agricultural sector, soil and climate. There will be no one-size-fits-all approach,” she points out. The main thrust of the plan is to reduce the use of inputs. To this end, Marion Guillou proposes alternative methods such as crop rotation and the optimization of livestock waste. She has also come up with a “revolutionary idea”; namely, the creation of a performance certificate for suppliers of phytosanitary products to encourage them to “sell less”, along the same lines as energy saving certificates. It is uncertain whether the idea will spark much enthusiasm within the farming community which may see the prospect of yield losses. “It is clear that it will increase our workload enormously”, recognises Stéphane Le Foll.

To achieve his goals, the minister will be counting on training in agricultural colleges as well as on the ground with the support of technical advisors from chambers of agriculture, education programmes for farmers, etc. “What we have here are guidelines for the third millennium and we need to lift economic and social barriers to make this happen,” says Marion Guillou. She believes that change will come about over the next five to ten years.