how the food check simmered in the government kitchen for two years

Handle “the first emergency of the French”promises the government to strike quickly and hard. “Purchasing Power Emergency Laws Will Be The First Texts Of This Quinquennium”, said Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne on May 27. The outline of these measures will be unveiled in the Council of Ministers within a week, for a full presentation on June 29, the government spokesman said Monday, May 30. The Parisian (paid item)

One of the measures the college is preparing is a food voucher, intended for low-income households affected by rising food prices. A novelty? Not so much. This project, which has been going on for a year and a half, has long put dust in the government’s closet before resurfacing in a context of mounting inflation. Franceinfo tells you about the difficult pregnancy of this yet to be determined check.

1June 2020: The Citizen’s Climate Convention proposes this idea

Think summer 2020. After nine months of work, the members of the Citizen’s Climate Convention (CCC) adopted a series of 149 proposals on June 21 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in France. Horrified by the crisis of “yellow vests”, Emmanuel Macron had given them a password: the “social justice”† Message received. To encourage consumers to buy “durable products”one of the measures taken consists of: “Introduce food stamps for the most needy”

Citizens want these checks to be usable “for organic products” Where “in the Amaps”, associations that promote short circuits. But in anticipation of legal hurdles, they propose a broader definition and include different terms such as “Label rouge”, “High environmental value”, “Sustainable fishing” or even “Farm product”.

Logistically, the distribution of these checks would be entrusted to the Municipal Social Action Centers (CCAS). “In some municipalities they are already responsible for handing out food stamps, similar to restaurant tickets, which allow shopping in social supermarkets or partner stores”praises the Citizen’s Climate Convention.

2June to December 2020: Emmanuel Macron promises to make it happen

A few days later, on June 29, Emmanuel Macron commits to submit almost all the CCC’s proposals to the government or parliament. For the citizens who gathered in the gardens of the Elysée, he quotes some “strong proposals” that he wishes “view all covers”starting with the “food coupons, to get the most modest to buy quality products”

Emmanuel Macron speaks to the 150 citizens of the CCC, at the Elysee Palace, June 29, 2020. (CHRISTIAN HARTMANN/AFP)

In the quiet of the summer, the idea found its way, but in the fall, radio silence from the executive. The measure does not appear in the recovery plan or in the 2021 financing note. The cause seems to have been heard in December. Found too expensive during ministerial arbitrations, food control is no longer relevant, much to the dismay of the Citizens’ Climate Agreement. One of the participants demands accountability from the head of state.

“We do not understand the categorical refusal of the Ministry of Agriculture to introduce food stamps for organic and local products.”

A member of the Citizen’s Climate Convention

during a meeting with Emmanuel Macron, December 14

Reaction from the head of state, which surprises everyone: “I agree with the food check, so we have to do it. You’re right.’ Applause in the hall.

Once the presidential green light is given, the majority will get ready to make the project a reality. A working group of about ten deputies was set up and a note was sent to the government. Priority products: Organic or labeled fruits and vegetables, local and seasonal. Amount: between 30 and 60 euros per month per family. The check is then directed to the “precarious populations” but also the general public, for example in the case of support from their company, such as for restaurant or holiday vouchers, reports The Opinion (paid article)

3February to August 2021: the measure appears in the Climate Act, without implementation

At the beginning of February, however, there was still no trace of the device in the first version of the government’s Climate Act. In March, LREM MP Mounir Mahjoubi asked the government: “engage” on this subject and adopted an amendment. “The sustainable food check is for now”, will the chosen one believe. to be . to defend “Appendix” Agriculture and Food Minister Julien Denormandie assures him that the work is progressing.

“The criteria are finalized and defined within the government.”

Julien Denormandie, Minister of Agriculture and Food

to the National Assembly

The Climate and Resilience Act will be promulgated in August, with the amendment of Mounir Mahjoubi. Rule 259, very timid, only provides for the submission of two reports to Parliament, in October and February, without the obligation to introduce the famous “sustainable food voucher”. Green MPs denounce this lack of eagerness in vain: “Faced with the climate emergency, the time must be for action and decision, not ordering government reports.”

4End of 2021: Bercy decides and the measure is lifted again

At the end of the year, after hearings by the Ministries of Food, Solidarity and Finance, the ‘sustainable food voucher’ again failed. “We auditioned in the fall when we were told there would be only one of the two planned reports. In the end, none were published.”, regrets the Federation of Food Banks to franceinfo. The association now asks the management to announce the conclusions of this inspection “for the legislature”

Why such a funeral? “In the financial law, Bercy did not want to allocate a budget for the food voucher at the end of 2021, but rather strengthen the aid to charities”responds the FNSEA, the main agricultural union, which has long campaigned for such a device.

“There was an arbitration by Bruno Le Maire unfavorable for food control.”

Yannick Fialip, Chair of the FNSEA Economic Commission

at franceinfo

“It’s very complicated to set up, I won’t hide it from you”the Minister of Economy and Finance had warned on BFMTV in September, worried “that our public finances are in good order and that the money goes to those who really need it”

5March and April 2022: The promise resurfaces in the midst of the election campaign

On March 7, in Poissy (Yvelines), during his inaugural outing as a candidate for his succession, Emmanuel Macron unveils his first proposals.

“It is the candidate that appeals to you: we are going to organize the food voucher. (…) The president would have liked to have done it. There was a lot of resistance and it was all complicated.”

Emmanuel Macron, candidate for his succession at the Elysée

during a meeting with residents of Poissy

What shape will the device take this time? joker. On March 22, the president is content to defend a measure intended to: “lowest-income households and [aux] middle class”to encourage them “buy in short circuit and buy French”† A month later, for the second round, Julien Denormandie is just as evasive as the year before. “The principle is arbitrary, we are in the technical details”he evades, citing a potential target of eight million beneficiaries and an implementation “immediately after the elections, in the year 2022”

6May and June 2022: the check should finally see the light of day but “nothing is being recorded”

At the time of arbitration, before the submission of the purchasing power bill, “nothing is excluded”confirms to franceinfo the deputy LREM Gregory Besson-Moreau, who says: “work on the topic with the president and his teams”“Inflation related to the Russo-Ukrainian war is disrupting basic ideas and we need to react very quickly, perhaps with a double-trigger system.he says. There could be an emergency measure, followed by more targeted measures. Nothing is being done.”

Before leaving Matignon, Jean Castex also did not rule out reducing the ecological ambition of the system.

“The option is for this food check to become a purchasing power check.”

Jean Castex, Prime Minister

to AFP, April 15

Behind the scenes, industry players are trying to influence the food basket affected by the future check. The Agricultural Cooperation, the cooperative lobby and the FNSEA campaign for the inclusion of all “quality and local food products, of animal and vegetable origin”, also exclusive fresh products and without organic quality mark. Per household an amount of between 90 and 150 euros is advanced monthly.

Retailers are calling for the inclusion of grocery, dairy and even hygiene departments, far from the original vocation of the food check. For the E.Leclerc group, “social emergency” should prevail over the purpose of “to change the diet of the French”

“The problem with this check is that it seems simple, but everyone has set their own goals behind it”, noticed Barbara Mauvilaine, in charge of institutional relations within the Food Banks. It is therefore time for the government to clarify its line.

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