The spectacular images of orchards in Valais illuminated by dozens of heaters in early April did not go unnoticed. Just like the frozen and worried faces of arborists fearing that the extreme cold could burn the fragile flowers of apricot trees, but also of apple and pear trees. Some nights the temperature had dropped to –6 °.
The Federal Office for Agriculture does not yet have an overview of the damage caused by frost in Valais, the Lake Geneva region or even in Thurgau, a major fruit growing center in Switzerland. The hope is that they are minimal. Arborists have mastered the technique of sprinkling trees so that the water turns to ice and protects the flower.
14 billion public aid per year
The Ice Saints are before us. But the breakage is already there. It will be all the more lively as in Switzerland the fruit growers are not more than 10% to be insured. Because of high cost, swear the first interested. It is paradoxical in a country where the State injects 14 billion francs per year to support very expensive agriculture.
In Europe, an insurance system protects farmers from crop failures linked to natural disasters. A system that shows its relevance in this period when climate change is upsetting the cycles.
The “black kiss” of 2017 and the Bourgeois motion
In April 2017, Johann Schneider-Ammann, then Federal Councilor in charge of Agriculture, traveled to Vully (FR) to realize the disaster caused by the “black wind”. The scale of the losses had prompted the national councilor Jacques Bourgeois and then director of the Swiss Union of Peasants to present a motion asking the Confederation to participate in an insurance premium to protect itself against the consequences of bad weather.
However, the Federal Council has accepted the principle of such aid and sets it out in its draft Agricultural Policy 22+. Ironically, the agricultural lobby, unhappy with the whole package, killed him last month in front of both Houses. He must bite his fingers: the project will not return to the table before 2022 or 2023.
It is urgent to unfreeze the Bourgeois motion. It will be a new direct subsidy, probably incompatible with the rules of the World Trade Organization … But that’s a whole different story.