The question of cattle breeders’ income at the heart of agricultural mobilizations

What fly has stung French farmers, ready to block motorway lanes? You should rather look in the direction of… the mosquito. Indeed, this insect has been spreading, since September 2023, a new viral pathology, epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EMD), which affects ruminants, and more precisely cattle.

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It spread, but particularly affected breeders in the South-West. “ On All Saints’ Day (2023), the Minister of Agriculture, Marc Fesneau, came to the field on a farm affected by MHE and mentioned a support plan, but he had to wait until Friday January 19 for a part of an incomplete plan to be presented », Reacts Patrick Bénézit, president of the National Bovine Federation (FNB), affiliated with the National Federation of Farmers’ Unions (FNSEA).

A draft aid presented urgently, at the very time when farmers were paralyzing the A64 motorway, in the Toulouse region. With MHE and all the problems already accumulated, breeders had a feeling of abandonment. The farmer is alone when he has to discuss his bills with his banker, even though his situation is not taken into account. », Explains Véronique Le Floc’h, president of the Rural Coordination union.

“Inexplicable pressure on prices”

Between veterinary costs to treat sick animals, dead cattle, the abortion of affected cows and the drop in production, the bill quickly increased. MHE, like all crises, turned everything upside down. The central question is that of farmers’ income. When you have income, you can withstand a crisis. But there is growing inequality between farms: 18% live below the poverty line”underlines Laurence Marandola, spokesperson for the Peasant Confederation.

In 2022, according to data published by the Ministry of Agriculture, breeders of cattle intended for meat, even if they had seen their situation significantly improve, had an average annual income before tax of 26,601 euros . However, they remained in the queue of farmers, just ahead of the sheep and goat breeders.

However, after the improvement in 2022, the clouds gathered in the middle of 2023. “Inexplicable pressure on prices appeared in the summer, then intensified with the arrival of the MHE. We lost fifty cents per kilo on young cattle and one euro per kilo on heifers. As a result, our sales prices are fifty cents to one euro below our production costs. », summarizes Mr. Bénézit. And to add: It annoys us to see (the Minister of the Economy) Bruno Le Maire is calling for price reductions in the food aisle, when beef increases by 8% in mass distribution and our prices fall. The ambiguity of political discourse on the EGalim law must end. The law must apply. »

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