Technical and economic management of agricultural production chains
Field studies and sampling surveys, field assays, applied agronomic research
Agricultural technology access and farmers’ organisations , agriculture study groups
Land, agricultural and environmental legislation, on-farm implementation
Creation of technical documents, agricultural journalism, translations
Agricultural construction legislation
A new concept for barns
Prices of agricultural products are stagnating or falling, while farm buildings and types of production are changing more rapidly. On the other hand, farm buildings are becoming ever more expensive. Une nouvelle approche des bâtiments agricoles est donc nécessaire.
Farm buildings need to be very cheap, light and easy to change. As soon as they are no longer needed, they can be demolished. This can even be a condition of planning permission. But often, climatic conditions and environmental and animal protection requirements lead to the need for expensive equipment (a secure slurry pit, for example). Les agriculteurs sont également habitués à des dispositifs sophistiqués pour la Farmers are also used to sophisticated equipment for milking and for herd control.
If, despite all, farm buildings have to be expensive then they should last long enough to cover their costs. This means that they should be designed for multifunctional use, so that a succession of types of production can be installed within the same walls (dairy herd, fattening chickens or pigs, etc.). This is not the type of building currently being sold to farmers, not only because of the technical constraints associated with specific types of production (a cowshed cannot be converted into a poultry house without remodelling the space), but also because sellers of farm buildings and equipment have an obvious incentive to sell a brand new building for each type of production.
What’s more, new farm buildings are becoming very large because of the aggregation of agricultural structures: fewer and fewer farmers are rearing more and more animals, and they need ever larger infrastructures. An average dairy barn (60 to 120 places) that complies with animal husbandry standards now occupies a surface area of around 1,500 m2 and is 9 m high. Some very large barns are now shared by two to ten farmers.
Big but beautiful?
Livestock farms are built on open farmland to protect inhabited areas from bad smells. They have a considerable negative impact on the landscape, especially as their architecture is mediocre. The excuse given is that “aesthetics cost more” and cannot be paid for by current agricultural production. This remains to be proved. The real reason is that farmers prefer to buy ready-made solutions from cheap builders and architechts cannot compete with their offer. In addition farmers have a low opinion of their own product, and don’t think they could produce it in an aesthetically pleasing building, when it could in fact be a trademark for their product. The task for the public authorities, negotiating for example for more wood in the walls or a different colour for the roof, is a difficult one.
What happens to buildings that are no longer of use to a farmer?
If they are old, have interesting architecture and play a role in the landscape, they can be preserved and used for non-agricultural purposes. If not, in a country like Switzerland where farmland is scarce, they should be removed. If they are new and still useful for farming, they must be passed on to another farmer. But the owners of farm buildings (former farmers) hope to use or sell the property for more lucrative purposes, and there is no legal basis for removing farm buildings other than for lightweight, low-cost structures (tunnels).
Environmental impact assessments (EIA)
An environmental impact assessment (EIA) for animal husbandry?
In Switzerland, as in Europe, animal husbandry units of a certain size (potential number of animals held) are subject to the EIA procedure.
The spreading of liquid manure and the protection of surface and groundwater represent the most serious environmental problem for these constructions: not only must the quantities spread not exceed the nutrient requirements of cultivated plants, but the spreading must comply with strict rules. Spreading is forbidden on the banks of streams or in natural environments, on snow or on frozen or sodden ground, which cannot absorb the liquid fertiliser properly. In impact studies, only the size of the herd and its relationship with the agricultural area earmarked for spreading can be accurately assessed. When the size of the herd exceeds what can be absorbed by the farmland, contracts must be signed with farmers to recover the farmyard manure which may then be used on their crops.
Large livestock units have to be located outside villages because of the unpleasant smells and their poor architecture has a negative impact on the landscape. The result is the urbanisation of our countryside with large farm buildings, which is contrary to the principle of keeping large areas of farmland free of buildings.
Farmers try to avoid this procedure by reducing their livestock below the threshold above which an EIA is required. It is true that the planning permission procedure is longer and more complicated with an EIA. But reducing livestock numbers for this reason alone is illogical for the future of the farm business. The right project of the right size is the one that is one assessed regardless of an EIA. What is more, with or without an EIA, the builder has to prove that he is complying with environmental legislation, and it makes more sense to present all aspects of the issue in a single comprehensive and coordinated document, the environmental impact report. For a farmer, the EIA is also a unique opportunity to review his entire farm and farming techniques from an environmental point of view.
Legal basis in Europe: DG 85/387/EEC on EIAs, revised in 97/21/EEC, DG 91/676/EEC on nitrates. National legislation.
Legal basis in Switzerland: ruling on EIA. Cantonal legislation. I propose to introduce two study thresholds: one for very large units, considered as industries and subject to EIA; the other for much smaller units, but with a high density of livestock on the agricultural surface and considered very intensive and therefore subject to an impact notice. The technical content of the two documents is the same, but the authorisation procedure is more simple with the notice than with the EIA.
Air pollution control and climate change
Air protection often receives media coverage when it comes to the emission of unpleasant odours from pigsties and poultry houses. It is not uncommon for projects to be challenged in court by non-farming neighbours, even though the distance required by law between the farm and its neighbours is respected. The emission of ammonia into the air from daily excretion represents a threat to natural ecosystems. In Switzerland, all regions with a high density of livestock holdings have emissions that exceed the thresholds permitted under the Gothenburg Protocol of the Geneva Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution. Ploughshares for injecting liquid manure into the soil to reduce their volatile emissions will soon be compulsory.
Recently, in connection with climate change, methane emissions from ruminants have come under worldwide scrutiny, as they give off 30 times more heat than carbon dioxide and are a major contributor to climate change. Methane comes from the digestion process specific to ruminants, both wild and domestic: the micro-organisms in their rumen are capable of breaking down the cellulose in plants, releasing large quantities of this gas in the form of burps and farts.
While no measures exist for cattle grazing outside, mitigation measures can be suggested in or around buildings to reduce or capture methane emissions: covering slurry pits, regular cleaning and rinsing of soiled surfaces, and, perhaps in the longer term, in airtight buildings, collecting methane, which is lighter than air, under the roof. Finally, additives sold by the agricultural cooperative if incorporated feed reduce the methane emissions from the dairy cows somewhat, and give the cooperative the opportunity to issue and sell CO2 certificates!
The final and effective intervention is to reduce livestock numbers and cut our consumption of dairy products and meat. However this makes no sense in grassland regions, which can only feed ruminants: as long as the livestock load (the number of animals that the surface can feed) is respected, these animals are in balance with their natural environment.
Experience in Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe: to discover their agriculture
After the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, travel to Eastern Europe became easy: Eastern Europeans were eager to learn about the Western lifestyle, and curiosity attracted many Western Europeans to Eastern Europe. While many of these Eastern European countries joined the European Union in 2007, the war in Ukraine in 2022 cut the bridges to Russia for a long time.
Before collectivisation, in the Czechia, Romania and Albania, for example, it was not uncommon to find large agricultural estates belonging to private or institutional landowners, especially in fertile areas. Small-scale farming remained confined to less fertile or mountainous areas. In Latvia, it seems that a large number of family farms were collectivised. In these countries, collectivisation was accompanied by the confiscation of land from the peasants. Poland and the Balkan states (Slovenia and Macedonia) did not experience collectivisation and decollectivisation on a large scale.
The new regime introduced both the privatisation of both agricultural production and the distribution of agricultural land. Decollectivisation led to a wide variety of new structures, such as joint-stock companies owned by former owners or company employees, or land returned to owners or peasants who had to fend for themselves to develop it. In Romania, Latvia, Armenia and Albania, Georgia and Azerbaijan, large-scale redistribution has created a myriad of small family farms practising with survival farming in great poverty. In all these cases, the state has built up a reserve of good agricultural land in order to create larger, more efficient farms, with targets based on European Union’s agricultural policy. In southern Russia, collective farms often continue to be managed as a unit, on behalf of a company set up by the village’s beneficiaries, or a private entrepreneur or group (oligarchs) who do not live locally.
Decollectivisation and land distribution were often carried out very quickly, leaving an very significant number of very small farms without any means of production (inputs, machinery). Joining the European Union, which supports family farms of a certain size and with a good level of technology, will mean another profound change for the rural population of Eastern Europe in the short term. However, investment in agriculture is low, and millions of hectares of marginal land or land in need of costly irrigation or drainage improvements are in danger of being left fallow, despite massive aid from the World Bank and other lending bodies for the re-establishment of land improvements.
Czechia: Study of opportunities for rural tourism, on behalf of the Central Moravia Regional Development Agency (founded by an association of local authorities in the region). Regional studies and development of soft tourism in rural areas. Theoretical approach to the choice of tourism strategies.
Poland: The choice of tourism strategies in the Malopolska region at the Instytut Turystyki (Krakow): a theoretical approach.
Romania: Development of projects for Gypsies on behalf of the local municipality in the rural area in the Danube plain (Judet of Buzau).
Macédonia : Development of ‘environmentally-friendly agricultural projects ’ for the Ministry of the Environment and Land Management (FYROM)
Armenia: Development of “environmentally-friendly agricultural projects” for the Ministry of Agriculture in collaboration with a private office. Exploration for the development of pistachio production.
Stavropol region (southern Russia): visits to agricultural businesses, contacts and exchanges with the Stavropol Agrarian University and other institutes in the field of agronomic research. Exchanges of students and professionals (2007, 2009, 2010, 2016, 2019).
Environmental performance reviews
What is an Environmental Performance Review?
An Environmental Performance Review is carried out at the request of a country, either by the OECD (for member countries) or by the UNECE (for other countries). These two organisations engage experts (specific to each sector, such as water, air, industry, etc.), but always from outside the country under review. They organise the review (documents and mission to the country) and produce a final report with conclusions and recommendations. These recommendations are discussed and accepted by delegates from the country under review at an official meeting (at the UN or the OECD) and must then be incorporated into the policies and legislation of the country under review.
Kadima was responsible for drafting the “agriculture and environment” chapters in reviews for Slovenia (1996), Latvia (1998), Armenia (1999), Iceland (2000), Romania (2000), Albania (2001) and Macedonia -FYROM (2002), Turkmenisatan (2011), Georgia (2014), Morocco (2020), Azerbaijan (2021), Mauritania (2022).
Take a look: http://www.unece.org/env/epr/countriesreviewed.htm
Land use planning planning and protection of agricultural land
In Europe, industrial and economic development began in the Middle Ages in fertile plains where farming could feed more people than just one a single peasant family. Transporting agricultural produce to towns was simple and straightforward. The best agricultural land is therefore also the best location for economic development and urbanisation, and this situation led to construction pressure precisely on this land.
The world’s population continues to grow and to concentrate in large conurbations, including in Switzerland. The average area of arable land available per person is therefore shrinking. But that’s not all. Rapid urbanisation is devouring the best farmland to create industry, warehouses, housing and infrastructure. This is a source of growing concern.
Worldwide- since the food crisis of 2008 and with the outbreak of conflict in Ukraine in 2022 – there has been growing concern about food security. Rich and powerful countries are seeking to ensure their own food security by buying up farmland abroad. In Switzerland, self-sufficiency in food was a central concern during the Second World War, when borders were closed and the country’s food supply relied heavily on domestic production. This concern persisted for decades , and the rapid urbanisation of the post-war period raised public awareness of the need to protect land. The protection of agricultural land was at the heart of the Town and Country Planning Act, passed in 1972. In 1992, it was supplemented by a plan to protect the best farmland, with the aim of safeguarding 438,560 hectares of land free from construction.
Further information ARE
Today, the situation has changed: borders are wide open and shops are overflowing with products from all over the world, some of which we can’t grow in Switzerland but which play a major role in our diet. At the same time, the economy is flourishing and needs more and more land. Why produce food in Switzerland when we can import it without any problem and develop more lucrative activities on this land?
However, soil is a limited resource, and the most fertile soils contain almost half of the earth’s biodiversity, which has yet to be discovered. In Switzerland, good agricultural soil is limited in quantity, but not in quality. Not only is the good soil fertile, but the climate, with sufficient rainfall, is extremely favourable: wheat yields are comparable to those in the best regions of France, and Switzerland is a world champion producer of sugar beet. Farmland is also a central feature of our landscape, one that helps shape our cultural identity.
Public administration, political experience, environmental and agricultural policies
Agriculture has a very special place in government strategies. Agriculture produces commodities that should be traded, like any other, in a free market, at a price set by supply and demand. On the other hand, food is the basis of everyone’s life and no state in the developed world should tolerate a situation where a large proportion of its population cannot achieve a sufficient level of nutrition for economic reasons. In order to feed their populations, governments may resort to intrusive trade practices that are incompatible with those of economic liberalism and globalisation: the war in Ukraine (2022) hampering the export of cheap cereals and oil from Ukraine and southern Russia to the rest of the world showed the extent to which the poor urban classes in developing countries, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, were dependent on them.
By its very nature, agriculture uses most of the national territory, and it is in the state’s interest to control activities on agricultural land and restrict its use for reasons of environmental protection or to prevent the disproportionate expansion of built-up areas. In densely populated areas, agricultural land is coveted by many potential non-agricultural users. In sparsely populated areas, farmers canbe responsible for guaranteeing the maintenance of farmland and a biodiverse landscape.
My political mandates give me the opportunity to broaden my field of action and to offer my technical skills in support of agriculture and farmers.
I support the State’s strong commitment to agriculture and farmers, and the principle of food sovereignty for every foodstuff for which this is reasonably possible. Farming practices must respect all environmental protection requirements and, in return, farmers must be properly compensated for the services they provide in maintaining the landscape and biodiversity. Farmland should be owned by the state and leased on long-term leases under strict ecological conditions. Collective facilities for land use and agricultural production should be compulsory in order to obtain financial support from the State.
Avenches: Member of the Municipal Council and member of the Finance Committee (1994-2001), Chairwoman of the Finance Committee (1998), Chairwoman of the local section of the Socialist Party (1997-2001). Cossonay: Member of the Municipal Council (since 2021).
Member of the Agricultural Commission of the Swiss Socialist Party (2000-2009). Chair of the Cantonal Agricultural Commission of the Vaud Socialist Party (2004-2009). Member of the Vaud Socialist Party Steering Committee (2005-2009). Member of the Steering Committee of Swiss Socialist Women (2017-2022).
Delegate of Business and Professional Women International (BPW) at UNCTAD in Geneva (since 2004).