Performances économiques et environnementales des petites exploitations agricoles françaises

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21 January 2022

The small farm sector in France has been rapidly changing in the last decade. Case studies and statistical work indicate that a fringe of small farms are developing a business model radically different from conventional agriculture, based on more sustainable production systems and mobilizing innovative ways to create value added at farm level. Can this type of farm foreshadow a new model of agriculture, both economically viable and environmentally sustainable? Should it be better supported by agricultural policies? To respond to these questions, this article compares the economic and environmental performance of small French farms relatively to the performance of medium and large farms. Our analysis is based on 2018 data from the Farm Accountancy Data Network (FADN) and we use the small farm definition provided by the French farm union “Confédération Paysanne”, which defends small-scale peasantry agriculture. Our results show that 55 % of small farms display greater environmental performance than the median environmental performance of the overall farm sector. Our central finding is that 13 % of small farms are both more environmentally and economically performant, in comparison to all farms. These environmentally and economically farms are run by younger farmers, mostly women. They are mostly organic and generate sufficient income per worker to ensure their short-term economic viability. However, subsidies from the Common agricultural policy (CAP) remain indispensable. A rebalancing of the allocation of CAP support, according to the number of workers, could help to ensure their long-term viability and would contribute to a performant small-holding innovative model of agriculture..
On assiste au renouvellement des petites exploitations agricoles. De plus en plus d’études de cas et travaux statistiques montrent qu’aujourd’hui certaines petites exploitations françaises s’inscrivent dans un modèle innovant et performant. Cet article compare les performances économiques et environnementales des petites exploitations, définies d’après les critères de la Confédération Paysanne, avec celles des moyennes et grandes exploitations du RICA. On montre que 55 % d’entre elles sont relativement plus performantes sur le volet environnement que l’ensemble des exploitations. 13 % sont même doublement performantes. Elles sont dirigées par de jeunes chefs, majoritairement des femmes, souvent en agriculture biologique, et dégagent un revenu par actif suffisant pour se maintenir. Les aides de la PAC sont cependant indispensables. Un rééquilibrage des aides par actif pourrait assurer la viabilité des petites exploitations à long terme, et contribuer à développer un modèle de petites exploitations innovantes et performantes..