Water plan: the agricultural component is taking shape little by little

Published on Nov 7, 2023 at 6:52 p.m.Updated Nov. 7, 2023 at 6:57 p.m.

More than seven months after the presentation of the water plan by Emmanuel Macron, the different aspects of this vast project are starting to be put in place. Particularly on the agricultural part.

The Minister of Agriculture, Marc Fesneau, as well as the Secretary of State for Biodiversity, Sarah El Haïry, brought together this Tuesday the various territorial actors responsible for the management and distribution of water (presidents of the water committees). basin and directors of the six water agencies). If the efforts at sobriety required, due to the scarcity of the resource in the years to come, concern all sectors, agriculture holds a special place due to the volumes of water consumed and the nature of its production.

Scaling up

For the Ministry of Agriculture, it is clear that farming practices will have to evolve significantly, particularly with the development of irrigation, which is still limited in France. France only has 58,000 farms using it at this stage (11% of farms). “Territories where this was not the practice will have to resort to irrigation,” explains a ministerial advisor. “But these new needs will have to be compensated by water savings at the same time,” he insists.

Saving water through substitution and adaptation projects, upgrading agricultural equipment, promote multi-use : this is the whole challenge of the hydraulic fund of 30 million euros already approved by the government. At this stage, the aid scheme has been notified to Brussels, but the list of projects which may be eligible is still in limbo. “Many experiments already exist in the territories, now we must move to the next level,” insists the Ministry of Agriculture.

Irrigation fee

Above all, the costing of water savings has not yet been finalized. At the national level and all sectors combined, a 10% reduction in water consumption is targeted by 2030, but each basin committee must now break down this reduction by type of use and by territory. This is where the battles are likely to be the toughest. “By the end of 2023, all committees will have adopted their strategy,” ures the State Secretariat for Biodiversity.

Finally, financing the water plan (475 million euros in total) must increase gradually and will not reach full capacity until 2025. Financed exclusively by fees paid by users, it relies 10% on farmers, i.e. 47 million, distributed as follows: 37 million thanks to a fee on diffuse pollution (plant protection products) and 10 million thanks to the irrigation fee. A distribution recorded in the finance bill, currently being examined in Parliament.

Beyond the already existing royalty ceilings, the government has established a floor system which makes it possible to reach the sum of 10 million. An increase in fees deemed fair by the government between the territories and users, but which still largely makes farmers cringe.

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