Irrigation and pesticide use : the French government at the service of the agro-industrial system

Press release by Attac France

Alongside the unprecedented offensive against public services and labour law, the government is radically changing water and agricultural policies, at the service of the agro-industrial system and under the false pretext of the fight against climate change.

In 2017, the Ministers Nicolas Hulot and Stéphane Travers relaunched the territorial projects concerning agricultural irrigation at the request of the FNSEA (Fédération Nationale des Syndicats d'Exploitants Agricoles) and Irrigants de France while creating an expertise cell on water resource management in the agricultural field. This cell has the undeclared objective of breaking down regulatory barriers, reducing or even eliminating environmental impact studies and associations' appeals against these projects; as is happening with wind power and methanisation projects. In addition, the government requires water agencies to participate in the financing of basins, hill reservoirs and water transfers, whereas this same government has decided to drain their budgets (relying almost solely on domestic user fees) and ask them to reduce their staff.

The decentralized State services are responsible for mapping watercourses and pesticide-free areas along water points for each department, in consultation with local stakeholders. The pressure of the chambers of agriculture controlled by the FNSEA is such that many flows are no longer identified as watercourses. Consequently, riparian farmers will be able, on the one hand, to take water from these "non-watercourses" without having to go through an application for authorization and an environmental impact study, and on the other hand, to freely apply pesticides on the banks. The pollution of soils and water bodies by pesticides is not about to decrease, especially since the ecophyto plan which is supposed to limit the use of pesticides and therefore pollution, is a complete failure and the new plan presented by the government will not change things.

Territorial projects and maps are developed with the greatest opacity and connivance between political leaders, senior officials and the agro-industrial system, thus preventing any evolution towards a more sustainable and environmentally friendly agriculture. It is for these reasons that it is important to support and publicize associations fighting on the ground for the preservation of aquatic ecosystems, access to water and the health of populations.