“It’s too expensive», «it doesn’t cover all my losses“: farmers, on the front line in the face of climatic hazards, are still reluctant to insure themselves against the loss of their crops, while new, better adapted systems will come into force at the beginning of 2023. A chopped vine, wheat bent by hailstones of the size of ping-pong balls: after another extremely violent weather episode last Saturday, some farmers lost a year’s work in minutes.
Climatic accidents – drought, frost or hail – are more and more violent and frequent, and yet only 30% of cereal growers, 20% of winegrowers and less than 5% of arboriculturists are insured, notes the majority union, the FNSEA.
Abandoned private insurance system
Currently two additional systems apply: the agricultural calamity regime and the insurance regime. The public calamity regime, in force since the 1960s and co-financed by the State and the profession, can be triggered after a severe climatic episode. But it excludes certain parts of agriculture (viticulture and field crops) and its compensation periods are considered too slow.
“To benefit from the calamity, it is necessary to justify 30% of production losses and a loss at least equivalent of the gross operating product, calculated on the whole of the farm: which is very complicated when you have several activities and cultures affected differently“Explains Joël Limouzin, in charge of emergencies at the FNSEA. As for the insurance system, private but 65% subsidized by the State, it is still little subscribed by farmers. He is judged “too expensive» in view of the potential coverage of losses, which is considered too low.
“The insurance taken out by a winegrower in Gascony, affected by hail this weekend, made it possible to guarantee 40 hectoliters per hectare, for a production estimated at 90 hectoliters / ha, it is very low“, explains Jérôme Despey, secretary general of the FNSEA.
“The harvest insurance law, operational in 2023, will allow more farmers to take out insurance to better cover their needs, with an additional 300 million euros in national solidarity per year“, doubling the budget, announced the Minister of Agriculture Marc Fesneau, at the bedside of Girondin and Gers winegrowers in recent days.
Faced with a system unanimously considered as “breathless“, Parliament adopted last February a reform of crop insurance, which will come into force on January 1, 2023.
This text replaces the two current devices, and creates “a universal compensation scheme» on three levels: a first level is under the responsibility of the farmer, who alone will bear the losses up to a deductible threshold (set at 20%); a second level comes under the private insurer (up to 50%, with support for a large part of the subscriptions via aid from the Common Agricultural Policy), and a third level, which mobilizes national solidarity, with public funds to respond to disaster situations.
A one-stop shop has been created to simplify procedures. And the text provides for the creation of a pool of insurers. Adhering to it would be compulsory for insurers in the sector, thus allowing data sharing and pooling of risks, in order to establish the fairest possible insurance premium.
This device is acclaimed by the FNSEA, with however a size reserve. “Currently, compensation will be calculated according to an + Olympic average +, that is to say on the performance of the operation of the last five years. However, the succession of calamities has reduced the coverage“, explains Jérôme Despey.
“We call on the government to review this ‘Olympic average’ system, which needs to be changed at community level. If we do not do this, we will lose a large part of the benefit of the current reform.“, he believes.
Pending the entry into force of the new crop insurance, Marc Fesneau has undertaken to “work on state-guaranteed loans (PGE)“, which should be extended, and promised “case by caseto take into account all situations, with or without insurance. The FNSEA is asking for an effort with a reduction in property taxes and social security contributions, to get out of this “nightmare“.