Investigation were carried out in two districts (Nuts 3) in South-West of France: Gers, France, is an agricultural district (Nuts 3) in South West of France. Gers is a highly agricultural and rural territory: agriculture provides 12% of employment. It is the 8th French country (out of 100) in terms of field crops (CAO, 2017). Since the early 2000s, the number of farms has dropped significantly (CAO, 2017): in 15 years, from 2002 to 2017, Gers lost 1,416 farms (a decline of nearly 20%). The average farm size has increased sharply, well above the national average, now standing at 86.5 hectares (against 63 hectares – AGRESTE, 2018). Gers is an agricultural area with a high level of crop diversification.
The other focus region is Pyrénées Atlantiques (PA), located south of Gers. In terms of new outsourcing practices, this is one of the 3 French counties (out of 95) with the highest percentage (16-18%) of farms whose management of all cropping operations (cereals, oilseeds and protein crops) is delegated to a third party (“A to Z” outsourcing). In PA, the density of agricultural service providers of all types is also very high, with more than 350 organizations (private contractors, cooperatives, farmers).
The study focuses on a social and organisational innovation, new labour arrangement linked to farms’ outsourcing strategies. Outsourcing is a phenomenon known mainly in the industrial sector, where it has predominated and developed at a sustained pace since the beginning of the industrial revolution and more particularly since the 1970s.
In agriculture, in addition to mutual assistance, the outsourcing of certain technical operations, such as harvesting and wrapping, is also a longstanding practice. But for a long time mainly small farms, which did not have the necessary equipment or labour, used to outsource such operations.
It was not until the mid-1990s that outsourcing in the agricultural sector really took off. Since then, it has continued to develop steadily. Between 2000 and 2016, the number of farms making significant use of outsourcing more than doubled, with new practices such as outsourcing operations that require sophisticated technologies and specific skills (conservation tillage, phytosanitary treatments with on-board computerized technologies, etc.). The question of advising with regard to the rapid development of these new outsourcing practices is central: what has been the role of farm advisory systems in the development of these practices? What is in turn the impact of these practices on the advisory landscape?
Full report is available here.
National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment (INRAE) is France’s public National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment. The team involved in AgriLink involves three research units from the division Sciences for Action and Development of the Institute. INRAE coordinates AgriLink; the team has experience in former EU projects on farm advice, including PRO AKIS, and published various papers on these issues.