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LREM deputy Olivier Damaisin submitted a report to the government this week on supporting farmers and preventing suicide in this profession. Because this sector has been plagued by serious economic difficulties for several years. Testimony of a breeder in Vienne.
Every day in 2015, more than one farmer committed suicide. The total reaches 372 people, or even 605 including agricultural workers, according to the latest figures from the Mutualité sociale agricole (MSA). A “statistical excess mortality by suicide for farmers, compared to the general population, has been highlighted,” recalled last June the National Suicide Observatory. The many difficulties encountered, which contribute to the unhappiness in the profession and sometimes lead operators to consider the worst, were the subject of a report submitted, Tuesday 1 December, by the deputy Olivier Damaisin (LREM) to the Minister of Agriculture, Julien Denormandie.
The phenomenon has lasted for several years and testimonies of distress from farmers are accumulating. Among them, Guillaume Poinot. Interviewed by France 3 Nouvelle Aquitaine in September 2019, the one who was then a goat breeder in Vienne recounted with emotion the financial situation in which he found himself. “Until 2030, I will work just to pay off debts”, he explained. Economic difficulties had led to his breeding being placed in receivership.
Today, Guillaume Poinot has converted to sheep farming. “I was alone on the goat farm, it was far too time-consuming and reduced to the time I spent there, I did not get sufficient remuneration”, explains the operator, contacted by France 24. “That’s why ‘added the ongoing legal redress: at one point, I was quite fed up, I had to find a loophole to get out of this situation. ”
“We work like convicts”
According to the farmer, “if there are fewer and fewer farms in the country, it is because there is deep unease”. Metropolitan France had 437,400 farms in 2016, a number that has fallen by more than half in thirty years, according to INSEE.
“The unease comes first from the fact that we work like convicts and that we do not receive a salary. Today, my job does not make me earn a living, ”says Guillaume. We say that we persevere because we are passionate, but the passion for work has a limit if it is to come to extremes and to commit suicide, as many colleagues have already done. ”
To prevent this situation, a national action program against suicide has been in existence since 2011: implementation of multidisciplinary prevention units, development of “Agri’écoute”… This latest system set up by the MSA, a crisis line accessible 24/7, has the role of detecting sensitive or at-risk farmers before they end their lives. This notably enabled to Matthieu Marcon to survive : this farmer in the Ain wanted to kill himself, but he was taken care of in time by the emergency services after calling the number where he explained “in two words that (he) wanted