There are two categories of workers that the French government fears more than others. These are truck drivers and farmers. Organized, coordinated and mobile, they are able with just several thousand people of blocking entire regions and exerting exceptional pressure on both political leaders as well as citizens. While doubts remain about the ability of France to emerge from the economic crisis, it is also – and especially – a general social crisis that is brewing, illustrated by the anger of farmers.
Torn between its obligation to abide by the liberalization required by European laws and to address the concerns of farmers, the French government seems deadlocked. “Too much pressure, too many standards, too much injustice,” according to the National Federation of Farmers’ Unions (FNSEA), it is true that the agricultural sector is strained, like a majority of generous French workers. Sometimes over-indebted, French farmers have seen their margins shrink in recent years. This is particularly true for dairy producers for whom the disappearance of milk quotas can be the death knell of their activity, with debt, unemployment and oblivion as sole personal future.
Beyond the financial issues, it is a whole part of France and its agribusiness excellence – France allegedly fell from second to eighth biggest agricultural power in the world in 15 years – which is at risk of collapsing and the same also applies for some long-term strategic vision that says a powerful country should know and be able, in full or in part, to feed itself as it wishes. While genetically modified organisms (GMOs), international competition and traceability are major issues, governments are still seeking a balance – if possible – between globalization and healthy agriculture. A large, stable and profitable agricultural production contributes to national sovereignty. The United States, for example, has well understood this.