What lessons do you draw from this agricultural anger in your discussions on the ground?
We are witnessing a crisis of consideration, farmers want to be listened to. They are fed up with people speaking for them, constantly accusing them of being polluters or animal torturers… Do we leave doctors aside when we debate medicine? ? No. Well here, it’s the same thing. All the more so since it is necessary to take stock of what is at stake in this crisis: in Occitanie, the vine represents around 100,000 jobs. For comparison, it is more than aeronautics with Airbus. I think that if such a company saw its factories disappear, we would see an economic and social earthquake in the southwest. Because the crisis that our vineyard is going through is not only categorical, it covers social and territorial issues: villages which are emptying, soils not maintained due to the abandonment of the vines, a landscape heritage which is crumbling, cultural traditions that are fading. It is to listen to these fears, above all human, that I go to meet them.
What role can the diocese play with farmers and public stakeholders at the local level?
The main problem of the department is the lack of water. The drought has been hitting us for almost three years and desertification is taking place to such an extent that vines are dying of thirst under the helpless gaze of winegrowers. This water stress dries out the vegetation but also irritates the population. People are at the end of their nerves, you realize, during the last twenty months, it has rained less on the Narbonne coast than in the Sahelian zone….
Obviously, in the crisis that is sweeping the country, the Church is not competent to discuss the tax on non-road diesel or the zones of non-treatment with pesticides. On the other hand, it can ensure the safeguarding of the principle of subsidiarity in the territories, particularly for the management of water resources. Aude wine growers want to be able to irrigate the vines by drilling into the water tables and this practice, good or bad, must be studied and decided at the local level. Wanting to regulate all this from Paris or Brussels is to be disconnected from reality.
For the rest, the diocese’s reflection focuses on social justice in the agricultural world because many questions arise about the sharing of value in the agri-food chain. Are we really working towards the common good in the current state of the system? Nothing is less sure.