14 January 2000

UK beef no, farmers yes

France might not want our

beef but it does welcome our

young farmers and even

offers training and a cash

present to help them settle

And, as Tessa Gates

reports, even the locals

are friendly

FRENCH farmers have what farmers here would love — real support from their government and affordable land prices. However, French agriculture is not attracting new entrants, despite generous financial incentives. Farming has the wrong image for todays young French people.

"The inheritance system has split the land into small sections giving farming a subsistence, peasant image. Young people do not distinguish between the old peasant existence and todays farm business," explains Clive Edwardes. He is English but has been settled in France since 1983 and has been happy enough to apply for citizenship.

Married, with a 10-year-old son, his wife is the registered farmer on their 35ha (86acres) sheep farm at Cromieres, near Cussac in the Limousin region, as Clive now works as a lecturer in a college in Limoges. Part of his job is to interpret into English the lectures on a special course run annually for young farmers from the EU wishing to start up in the Limousin region. He believes the course is an essential aid to success for British farmers wishing to settle in France.

"We hear plenty of tales of people who have got it all wrong through relying on unscrupulous agents. Some are very good at selling property but very bad at informing people about all the grants and low interest loans available, and about the French bureaucratic system in general," says Clive. "The course is a chance to spend two informative weeks in a non-commercial environment. If you are going to make the financial and emotional move to another country, it makes sense to put two weeks aside to find out if it is what you really want to do."

&#42 On course for cash

The course costs about 4000 francs (roughly £400) and this includes accommodation, meals, visits, the 40-hour young farmers course that is essential to some funding; and a contribution to documentation expenses. It is open to young farmers (up to age 35 plus one year for each of up to four children) and to older farmers who are in partnership with someone of the eligible age. All must have a minimum of an HND in agriculture. It also explains le cadeau — the present of £10,000-£20,000 for young people who have not previously farmed in their own right – that is tied with strings that mean you will have to farm for a set number of years in France or repay it.

The course* is held at CFPPA, Limoges Les Vaseix. The Director, Bernard Mourrier says that in addition to providing a background to French agriculture and its organisations, the course also aims to smooth the social and professional integration of EU nationals wishing to farm in France.