“Farmers’ water is used to feed us”

11:45pm, August 6, 2022

Friday, during a trip to Alpes-de-Haute-Provence with farmers affected by drought, Christophe Béchu, Minister of Ecological Transformation, recalled that “Drinking water is 20% of consumption withdrawal. Double agricultural use”.We have reduced our water needs by 30%”, Christiane Lambert, president of FNSEA, responded. For JDD, unionists grasped the situation and highlighted the measures farmers took to combat the historic drought that affected France.

What is the final point of the situation?
Many crops were burned, grasslands turned yellow, and animals looking for food were raking the ground. The lack of fodder will affect the whole of France and all farms: cattle, sheep, goats and horses. Corn has fewer cores and smaller seeds. On my farm, we won’t have enough to raise pigs. Harvest schedules have changed almost everywhere. Many have finished harvesting without starting for weeks. Harvest will begin in some vineyards three weeks in advance. It’s all hard work for farmers who work in buildings and greenhouses, or who have to harvest intensely to prevent fruit or vegetables from going to waste. With the heat, the manufacturing process has matured a lot and holds less well. We had to turn on the turbo, work fifteen hours a day, especially when Spain was affected by frost and Italy was in drought, Europe was short of fruit. There are places to put French manufacturers on the German or British market.

Read more – Drought: why the lawns of Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 stadiums continue to be watered

Is the situation also serious on farms?
It is difficult to guarantee between 22 and 28 degrees in some buildings. The temperature even rises to 37-38 degrees in older cars that are not equipped with a cooling system. We have been implementing solutions for ten years. We have incorporated elements into new constructions that promote animal cooling, such as water curtains. We are working to improve things. For example, dairy producers have found solutions to reduce their carbon footprint by 15% by optimizing herd management. That amount of milk has dropped 23% in 15 years. But you should know that a closed farm will never reopen. Helping them is a matter of resilience. Fewer manufacturers means higher prices. We don’t want food insecurity to grow.

No climate sensing drugs in agriculture

Do you feel targeted by the efforts to reduce consumption demanded by the entire population?
We heard everywhere that we had to change the model, but we adapted for ten years. There are no climate sensors in agriculture. We have reduced our water needs by 30%. In many departments, such as those with specific crop production, nurseries or seedlings, farmers have no choice: they need water. But overall, only 5% of farmers are irrigators. In my town, out of 13 manufacturers, there is only one sea. And as I often remind you: a tomato is 90% water. Farmers’ water is used to feed people.

Read more – Drought: at Lake Serre-Ponçon, cruise companies are working to limit damage

At the executive level, do you feel supported?
Last year, we worked within the Varenne framework on water and climate change. We just went through a historic freeze. We had to sit around the table. Three thousand people were consulted. And as is always the case with a major consultation, the farmers are committed. Some people don’t want to join… We’re used to that. People want local food but don’t want to set up a farm near their home. One of the priority measures involves the establishment of a crop insurance system. It was passed by MPs in March. We are working on making it applicable from January 1, 2023. That should be a decent performance; Only 30% of farmers are insured.

Let nature go in the direction of good, beautiful and good, but that is ideology

What about the water storage problem that you have been raising for a long time?
An inter-ministerial delegate has been assigned to lift the brakes on certain records. He has a 23-man squad, ready to go. Some dating back more than fifteen years remain unresolved, while some areas are experiencing a fourth year of drought. Smartly storing water is a priority. To let nature go its own way is good, beautiful and good, but that is ideology. The climate situation we are in requires human management of the problem. Without man-made reserves, some people without access to water will find themselves accused of growing unirrigated crops. It will be wheat, wheat, wheat. And monoculture, we know what it can lead to.

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