A NEED FOR CHANGE
In just a few decades our horizon has changed. Global warming, exhaustion of our most vital resources and damage to biodiversity have erupted from the domain of purely scientific observation into the social and economic realms. These new global realities can no longer be ignored by public action. Agriculture and forestry are at the heart of these major challenges of the century. Their role is essential if we are to meet the growing and changing demand for food, to preserve the environment and contribute to sustainable growth. “Mission Farmlands 2020” defines the possible ways forward to a reinvented agriculture that reconciles economic performance with ecological effectiveness.
AN AMBITIOUS POLICY
Agriculture and forestry must address five key challenges if they are to make good use of natural resources. “Mission Farmlands 2020” sets out in 10 chapters the five challenges to be met and the five ways forward to arrive at innovative and responsible agriculture. The program’s beginnings included personal and collective initiatives already in place. To gather those initiatives to create an impulsion for a new model is a key to the success of Mission Farmlands 2020.
The challenges to be met are:
- making better use of ever-scarcer water
- helping restore water to a satisfactory ecological condition
- stewarding biodiversity and landscape
- protecting soils
- controlling energy use more effectively and mitigating global warming
The ways forward are:
- reducing the use and impact of plant protection products
- involving all farms in sustainable development
- developing the potential of organic farming
- putting agronomy back at the heart of agriculture
- devising practices fitted to each area’s specific needs<doc1808|center>
To meet those challenges, lots of initiatives have been or will be created at national, local and individual levels. For each challenge or way forward, several priorities and one initiative to illustrate them have been chosen. For example, to meet the challenge “Stewarding biodiversity and landscape”, 5 priorities were set:
- If biodiversity and landscape are to be preserved, this must involve detailed knowledge of how these natural components and farming techniques interact. Support for research in this domain is therefore a priority of “Mission Farmlands 2020”.
- The development of land areas devoted to the landscape’s ecological infrastructures, such as hedges, trees, banking and grass strips is necessary. Taking into account in CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) aid mechanisms will contribute to this initiative.
- Support for grass cropping systems will be provided. These are often rather unproductive and unprofitable yet are nevertheless essential to the maintenance of biodiversity, landscape and diversity of local growing conditions (‘terroirs’).
- Protection of bees and other pollinators is a major concern
- Agroforestry is the association, on the same plot of land, of crops (or livestock pasture) and trees. This makes good use of the synergy between crops and trees, reduces the use of inputs, and fosters biodiversity. If agroforestry is to be promoted this will require its legal status to be defined clearly and its technical results disseminated, notably through development networks.
The growing of Wild flower meadows in the Massif des Bauges is one initiative illustrating these proposals. In 2007, the livestock farmers of the Massif des Bauges regional nature park launched a scheme, for the preservation of the “wild flower meadows” essential to maintaining biodiversity and the quality of regional farm products. In collaboration with the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) in Avignon, and the federation of French regional nature parks, 220 live-stock farmers undertook to enhance the presence of flowers in these meadowlands over a five year period. Their only obligation was to achieve a defined result – maintenance of rich and varied flora. No specific solution was imposed on them. This was the condition to be fulfilled if balance was to be maintained in the ecosystems, along with the beauty of the landscape, the dynamism of local agriculture and the delicious taste of local cheeses, organised around production under Protected Designations of Origin (“Abondance”, “Reblochon” and “Tomme des Bauges”) and Protected Geographical Indications (“Tomme de Savoie”, “Emmenthal”).
A MONITORED PLAN
To make sure that those goals are achieved indicators were created. For the ten main ones, unmeasurable initiatives have been determined and their progress will be assessed every year. To have a better idea of what those indicators are, here is a short description of three of them:
- Waterway buffer strips: By 2012, 100% of the Utilized Agricultural Area (UAA) in France will be required to sow grass strips along rivers and streams in order to limit run-off of plant protection chemicals and nitrates into surface water, and to reduce erosion. (Challenge 2, 3 and 4)
- Reduction of the use of plants protection: By 2018, pesticide use must be reduced by half, if possible. The NODU (number of unit doses) indicator, which takes account of both sold quantities and product intensity, will enable the changing levels of usage of these chemicals to be precisely monitored. (Way Forward 1, Challenge 2)
- Agricultural Diversity: From an agronomical standpoint, crop variety and crop rotation from one year to the next enhance the ecosystem’s potential, especially with regard to protection from health risks to plants. The ambition is therefore to achieve a 20% increase in the average number of crop types per holding by 2020. (Way Forward 4)
A COLLECTIVE WILL
If we are to overcome these environmental challenges, taking farming and forestry resolutely down these new avenues, we will need complete mobilization – of the actors and the means for action.
Concerning Europe, this new orientation for agriculture is in fact rooted in the Common Agricultural Policy. With impetus from the European Commission, the environment has over time been made an integral part of Community policies. The regional services of the French Ministry of Agriculture, which have been recently strengthened, will contribute to the plan’s practical implementation, bringing together all initiatives to respond to the issues of each region. Agricultural teaching establishments will see greater emphasis on their driving and demonstration role, with a concern for stronger partnerships with local government authorities and all actors in research, development and industry supply chains.’
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