A group of advisors to French environment minister Dominique Voynet has called for economic instruments to be introduced to reduce the environmental impacts of agriculture, in a report published on Wednesday. The ministry's future planning unit recommended "high" new taxes on fertilisers and pesticides. Revenues should be redistributed to farmers in such a way as to encourage good agricultural practice, it suggested, while subsidies should be reorganised to encourage sustainable farming. Change to the farming economy is being forced through reform of the EU's common agriculture policy and the work of the World Trade Organisation, the report concludes. Even if this were not the case, it suggests, new approaches would be demanded simply because of farming's environmental impacts. Agriculture is France's largest water consumer, the largest emitter of nitrate pollution and the second largest emitter of phosphorus, the report concludes. The country is the world's second largest user of agrochemicals, while French agriculture is responsible for over 90% of ammonia, half of methane and a quarter of nitrous oxide emissions. In addition to taxing pesticides and fertilisers, the report recommends that France's system of water charging should be tightened up. In particular it argues that farmers found to be illegally pumping water onto their fields should not receive any state subsidies for irrigation.
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