Several hundred farmers in Valence, Avignon or Perpignan, demonstrated Monday, September 24 against the removal of the exemption from charges for seasonal workers, announced by the government as part of the 2019 budget. Arboriculture, market gardening, viticulture, horticulture or seed production, “it is the future of entire sections of French agricultural production that is at stake” if the exemption from charges for seasonal workers is not reinstated, warned the main agricultural union, FNSEA on Monday evening , at the origin of the mobilization.
“Death to agricultural employment”
In Valence, coming from Drôme, Isère and Ardèche, the demonstrators – 140, according to the police, 200 according to the organizers – hung a banner “death in agricultural employment” in front of the prefecture. “We ask for the maintenance of the TO / DE (casual worker / job seeker), in order to find equivalent long-term solutions. Today, we are not aware of any concrete measures. We are waiting for the State is starting up, “Sébastien Richaud, president of the Young Farmers of Drôme, told AFP.
On Thursday, the Minister of the Economy and Finance, Bruno Le Maire, pledged to offer farms affected by the removal of the exemption from charges “concrete solutions” to compensate for the end of this device and safeguard their competitiveness. “We have a government that does not listen to us,” nevertheless lamented Jérôme Volle, vice-president of the FNSEA and winegrower in Ardèche. The protesters have been calling “for a long time” for a meeting with the Minister of Agriculture Stéphane Travert.
“We want to explain to him why we need the TO / DE on all the arbor, viti-market gardening sectors, without forgetting seeds, nurseries and horticulture”, continued Mr. Volle. “The cost of employment is the sinews of war”, underlines Rémy Nodin, winegrower in Saint-Péray (Ardèche). “It’s up to them to see if they want to bleed the agriculture of our country,” he said.
The FNSEA worries
In Avignon, nearly 200 farmers from the FDSEA and Young Farmers (JA) joined, with six tractors and a van, the prefecture of Vaucluse. On Friday, apple and pear producers had torn up two hectares of apple trees in the Hérault to protest against the removal of this device.
In the Pyrénées-Orientales, in Perpignan, around 100 farmers have installed a filter dam at the A9 motorway toll booth, distributing leaflets and local products to motorists. They then checked fruit trucks coming from Spain, overturned fruit trailers and set fire to tires on the roundabout access to a logistics platform which is one of the main fruit import sites and vegetables in France and Europe.
According to the FNSEA, the reform will affect 930,000 seasonal work contracts in France, and increase the cost per seasonal employee per month by 189 euros. “If the government persists in this direction, the loss for Ferme France will amount to much more than the 144 million euros that the end of this exemption is supposed to save,” FNSEA said in its press release. “If we remove the TO / DE, many activities will stop”, recently estimated the president of the union, Christiane Lambert, citing “asparagus, vines, cherries”.
According to her, “production costs in France are already 36% higher than those of Italy, 27% of those of Germany and 21% of those of Spain”, which endangers French productions by compared to those of these countries. The FNSEA has calculated that France has already reduced its asparagus areas by 56% between 1996 and 2016, while at the same time Germany increased them by 112%.