Économie et Statistique n° 444-445 - 2011Land and agriculture, recent developments
Agricultural Land Policies in France since 1945
In the two decades following the Second World War, France implemented a legal arsenal focused on two objectives: first, to make French agriculture more competitive by remedying its fragmentation into small, unproductive holdings; second, to rationalize and modernize farms. A series of measures at département level helped to consolidate the mid-sized family farm, viewed at the time as the optimal framework for modernization. They included a new tenant-farming statute more favourable to tenants, regulations regarding the minimum surface area eligible for farming permits, and land-control arrangements to facilitate access to land for young farmers. In the 1980s, the prevailing protectionist approach gave way to the single European agricultural market, while the European Community enacted directives consistent with the stronger free-market orientation of farming legislation of other European countries. These developments led France to scale back its market-support policy. The quota system adopted for milk and meat, however, indirectly strengthened tenants' rights and autonomy with respect to their landlord(s). Lastly, “Département Steering Commissions for Agriculture” (CDOAs) were set up in 1995 to coordinate farm-policy instruments at département level. The emergence of the global market has made it difficult, at times, to reconcile the competitiveness goal with the pursuit of a policy aimed at preserving family-based production units. This explains why the objectives of French land policy have sometimes been ambivalent or hard to adapt to specific local conditions. For example, the “transferable agricultural property” (fonds agricole cessible) system-designed to encourage farmers to adopt an entrepreneurial approach-has proved difficult to implement.