So much has been going on. The house is getting rewired and I’m figuring out the legal way to pay my contractor/employee Mark the Spark and the windows and doors are nearly all in. I’ve visited a couple of farms in the last few days as well as spending several hours at the DDT, the government’s farm department and the Chambre d’Agricultre, the semi-government farm administration center. And Zélie, my fourth child, was born.
I need to write a whole separate post with a rough guide to the types of government farm assistance available, but it can only cover the few things I know about. I’ve only been looking into French farming for a year yet some of my knowledge is getting out of date as the 2011 legislation comes in with a lot of changes.
I have to apply to buy new land subsidies (yes, you buy them in 2010, although that may change for next year). I also have to apply for cow subsidies (which may disappear completely in 2011 to be replaced by better land subsidies). Then there is a subsidy for replacing cereals with legumes (that runs to about 110 Euros a hectare) and a subsidy for keeping a pasture-based farm biodiverse (another 76 Euros a hectare if they fund it in 2011). There’s a subsidy to go organic but I have some doubts about that one. There may also be something extra because I have lakes on my land. There was a grant for a first installation that I missed and if I was three years younger I’d meet the requirements to be a young farmer and they’d give me 18 thousand Euros and 1% interest rate loans.
So I spent my day being a subsidy farmer instead of a plant and animal farmer, but that is part of getting your farm going in France. If your neighbors are getting a subsidy of 280 Euros per cow per annum plus 200-plus Euros a hectare in land subsidies then the beef they supply is hugely supported and I’m at a competitive disadvantage without them.
But the best part of my farming day was I finally found a successful farmer who has a philosophy similar to mine. He was an old guy of 76 although he looked about 60, and I met him as he was driving up on his huge ancient Deutz tractor. I’m visiting him again next week to walk the fields and pick his brain.