There is a new label on the shelves in France. Stéphane Le Foll, French Minister of Agriculture, presented this “Haute Valeur Environnementale” (High Environmental Value) logo as a means of recognizing agrifood farms and establishments that meet the highest environmental standards of production. The logo will appear on all products that come from such certified establishments and will serve to encourage consumers and producers alike to contribute to a more ecologically sound and sustainable agriculture.
Although the logo is new, the idea behind it is not. The French Ministry of Agriculture, Agrifood and Forestry implemented its environmental certification program in February of 2012 as part of the agro-ecological project. This program consists of three certification levels, level three being the most environmentally friendly:
- Level One indicates fulfilment of the environmental cross-compliance requirements and the farmer’s commitment to assess the environmental status of his farm.
- Level Two reflects compliance with a set of 16 different criteria that have an effective impact on the environment and are designed to be integrated into the farm’s daily management. These criteria define the focuses for environmental progress on the farm, provide guidelines for the rational use of inputs and place limits on accidental leakage into habitats. At this level, certification can be managed within the community.
- Level Three defined as “High Environmental Value” and involves a formal agreement to achieve defined outcomes. The farmer can choose to be assessed via a group of four composite indicators or two synthetic indicators: biodiversity, plant protection strategy, management of fertilizer use, water management. These two options allow for diverse systems of production to be taken into account while maintaining the same level of environmental excellence.
Until presently, the farmers with level three certification – many of whom are wine growers – needed to rely on their own means of advertisement in order to communicate their elevated production standards to consumers. Henceforth, products containing 95% of raw material from level three certified establishments will be systematically tagged with the Environmental High Value logo. The hope is that this change will further promote sustainable agricultural production, both through increased consumer support and producer participation. Currently, there are 160 certified farms that have level three status and the rights to this new label.