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Where are the peasants? Louis XVI Ask President Macron On Agriculture And Policy Makers

After last Sunday’s legislative elections in France (19 June), EURACTIV took a look at how many of the newly elected 577 lawmakers belong to the farming community.

Only 15 ‘farmer’ MPs will sit on the benches of the French National Assembly for the next five years. They were 17 in 2017 and 15 in 2012, according to the French ministry of interior.

That seems quite disproportionate considering that farmers do not carry much weight if compared to the ‘executives and higher intellectual professions’, from which 60% of the elected members come.

Except that French agri-MPs are far from being under-represented: While farmers represent 0.8% of the general population, they are 1.9% of the assembly.

In addition, there are 18 farmers in the Senate too, which combined makes the agri-component of the French Parliament a little more than 5% of the total.

Basically, in relative terms, there are more farmers inside than outside the French Parliament.

However, farming representation in the legislative assemblies has stagnated at around 2-3% of parliamentarians since 1993.

Since that time, the farming population in the country has been halved too – from 1.6 million farmers in 1982 to about 400,000 in 2019.

This means that, despite the current demographic collapse, parliamentary representation remains at a relatively high threshold.

However, it is still far from the glorious day of the 1950s, when farmers in the Parliament reached an incredible level of 12%, but at a time when farmers still represented 30% of the French population.

If we look at the profiles of this handful of agri-deputies, we notice that they all work on large and medium-sized farms. Almost all of them belong to parties of the centre and the right (13). Only two have been elected with the extreme right of the Rassemblement National

But if we look more closely, there are a few members of the farming community with more heterodox profiles, who are not included in the ‘farmers’ box provided by the ministry of the interior, which takes into account only self-employed farmers.

This is the case of Mathilde Hignet, who works as an agricultural worker on her parents’ organic farm. She was elected under the NUPES (left-wing alliance) label in Brittany with 50.36% of the vote.

“During the campaign, we just went to see people in their homes, on the markets,” described the freshly elected parliamentarian. “I said ‘hello, I’m Mathile Hignet, I’m 29 years old, I’m a farm worker’ and people would say, ‘Oh well, that’s good, it’s changing, it’s going to change! “she told the France 3 television channel.

The striking performance of both the NUPES and the Rassemblement National will bring unprecedented sociological diversity to the 2022 assembly. If the proportion of working-class people has difficulty in crossing the 1% mark – they reach 20% of the population – they have nevertheless gained from one to six MPs this year.

If Hignet is the only farm worker, the only MP from the left-wing agricultural world is the agricultural engineer Aurélie Trouvé.

And Sandrine Le Feur, an organic market gardener of the eco-socialist party Ensemble!, will be the only one representing peasant agriculture or smallholders in the highest spheres of the Republic.

When King Louis XVI convened the Estates-General in 1789, amid the deputies of the Third Estate – supposed to represent the whole of the French people alongside the nobles and the clergy – there was only one peasant, a category that represented 2/3 of the French population at the time.

This was the beginning of the great Revolution, marking the irruption of the people in history. However, peasants did not feature in the following assemblies either.

250 years later, peasants are still missing from the decision-making centres. Except that this time, the new revolutions we have ahead could not take place without them.

Source: https://www.euractiv.com/section/agriculture-food/news/agrifood-brief-from-louis-xvi-to-macron-where-are-the-peasants/

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