In a controversial move, the French government, led by Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, has decided against imposing proposed tax increases on pesticides and irrigation. The decision, which was part of the 2024 budget, aimed to generate an additional 37 million euros from pesticide sales and 10 million euros from water withdrawals for irrigation. These funds were intended to support water agencies and address the critical issues of water scarcity and contamination in France.
Backlash Over Decision
The government's choice has sparked criticism, primarily due to the rising costs of water treatment and pollution that local communities and water distributors are now forced to bear. The planned tax hikes were seen as a way to shift the burden of these costs onto the industries causing the pollution, specifically agriculture. However, following protests across France and subsequent discussions with agricultural syndicates, including the Fédération nationale des syndicats d'exploitants agricoles (FNSEA) and the Young Farmers' President, the government chose to retract these increases.
Senate's Stance and Reactions
The Senate initially rejected the tax increases, arguing that they could jeopardize the economic models for farmers who are already struggling. This perspective was also backed by Agriculture Minister Marc Fesneau. On the other hand, the FNSEA expressed satisfaction with the outcome, viewing it as a victory for farmers.
However, water distributors, such as Eau de Paris, have slammed this decision. They view it as a scandal that effectively grants industries a license to pollute and waste water, while passing on the associated costs to citizens. This move is seen as a setback for environmental conservation and sustainable water use, with communities left to bear the brunt of the pollution costs and the challenges of irrigation development.