Freezing crops: what will the crop insurance law change?

As in 2021, France recorded extremely low temperatures for the month of April. Sunday night was even the coldest since 1947. Last year, frost losses led to the establishment of an emergency fund for the most affected operators of 20 million euros, and payment of social security contributions for nearly 70% of farms up to 170 million euros.

“The State will be at the side of the farmers affected, as it had been especially during the frost episode of April 2021”, assured the Prime Minister in a press release.

“Winegrowers did not even have the courage to go see their vines this morning”

While another night is preparing with negative temperatures, “it is still too early to draw a quantified assessment of the consequences of frost”, indicates the Ministry of Agriculture. In Dordogne, Burgundy, Alsace, Centre-Val de Loire, Lot-et-Garonne and Maine-et-Loire, “many arborists are affected”, said the president of the FNSEA, Christiane Lambert who is already asking for “support” from the State.

“Beyond the economic damage, there is also the moral damage. Winegrowers in my region did not even have the courage to go and see their vines this morning. This is the second year in a row for this sector, which has already had problems finding outlets with covid,” explains Nathalie Delattre, Senator (RDSE) from Gironde and co-president of Anev, the National Association of Wine Elected Officials and some wine.

>> Read our article: Freeze: “We must reform the entire insurance system” of farms, according to Laurent Duplomb

Adopted last month for entry into force in January 2023, the “harvest insurance” law is a “first stone” for the senator. “It is going in the right direction”, confirms Henri Cabanel, senator (RDSE) of Hérault, winegrower by trade. The text ” will allow risk coverage for all, simpler, fairer and more protective “, assures Jean Castex.

What is it about ? This rather technical text sets a new general framework for tripartite compensation between farmers, the State and insurance companies. “A rocket has several floors” intended to expand the insurance coverage “of a profession which is not really the culture”, underlines Henri Cabanel.

“We wanted to promote the bond of trust between the farmer and the insurance company”

From 2023, low-intensity risks will remain the responsibility of the farmer, notably through precautionary savings.

The risk of average intensity (20% of losses) will be absorbed by multi-risk climate insurance (MRC), subsidized by the State at a threshold which cannot exceed 70%.

Finally, in the event of “catastrophic” losses (from 30% losses), it is national solidarity that will come into play. “The government was not in favor of us enshrining loss levels in law. We wanted to promote the bond of trust between the farmer and the insurance company. Among arborists and breeders, only 3% are insured. With this same objective, under the impetus of the Senate, the rates of State intervention are multi-annual, fixed over three years. The farmer will not be subject to the diktat of the State in his care, ”recalls Laurent Duplomb, LR rapporteur for the text.

“It is no longer a question of climatic hazards, but of climate disruption”

“Currently only 30% of agricultural land is insured. It is a system that excludes a large proportion of farms such as those involved in small market gardening because the benefit/risk is too high for insurers. The law will promote this system by favoring operators who are already insured. Paradoxically, those who are the most resilient, who practice polyculture will be penalized”, regrets Guillaume Gontard.

The president of the environmental group of the Senate puts forward a model of “pooled public fund, financed by the State, farmers and all downstream sectors such as mass distribution”. “Like Social Security, this system would cover all farmers. With this frequency, we are forced to recognize that it is no longer a question of climatic hazards, but of climatic disturbance”.

Henri Cabanel had pleaded for a system of “compulsory insurance” integrated into production costs. For him, like his colleague, Nathalie Delattre, the challenge is now the negotiation at European level of a new insurance framework. “It is a regulation (Marrakesh Agreement on Agriculture of the World Trade Organization) of 1994 and which fixes compensation according to the Olympic average. This average is based on the returns of the last five years, excluding the best and the worst. “But the problem is that with all these climatic hazards, as a winegrower, over the last five years, I have only had 2 more or less normal harvests”, explains the senator from Hérault.

“If we fail to unlock this Olympic average, there will be no real recovery of losses,” adds Nathalie Delattre.

The elected officials relied on the French presidency of the European Union to see this file move forward. Two months from the end of the presidency, it seems that they will not be answered. “At some point the principle of reality will prevail for all farmers in Europe,” the senator wants to believe.

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