It is not popular within the peasant world, far from it. Yet Franziska Herren says she wants “only good” for farmers. A paradox that can be explained by an obvious reason: the initiative “For clean drinking water and healthy food”, launched by the Bernoise. The proposal which will be submitted to the people on June 13 wishes to make direct payments conditional on production “without pesticides”, animals fed with the proceeds of exploitation, and the ban on administering antibiotics to animals “for prophylaxis”. or on a “regular” basis. A “punitive” text, revolt the workers of the land, without shaking the initiator, determined to change agriculture.
“Even while eating organic, I drink poisoned water”
“These offices previously housed slaughterhouses,” Franziska Herren smiles mischievously from the co.working space where she receives us. Dominated by the enormous Cathedral of Saint-Ours-et-Saint-Victor in Solothurn, the former pig terminal has turned into a campaign office. That of this 54-year-old fitness teacher, whose athletic career is on hiatus “the time to complete my project”. After training as a commercial employee, a few flights as an air hostess and twenty-seven years of aerobics in the medieval village of Wiedlisbach, why tackle the Swiss agricultural system alone?
“Clean water”, the initiative which despairs the peasants
“My parents made me aware of the fate of our planet from childhood,” she says. But one particular event will convince her above all to take action. Or rather a meeting: “In 2011, I saw a dairy cow who mooed sadly after being separated from her calf,” says the Bernese. This led me to do some research. ” From document to document, she notes that the image of Epinal put forward by peasant associations embellishes a less idyllic reality. “And that even if I eat little meat and buy only organic, my taxes subsidize agricultural production that destroys the environment and poisons our water,” she says. And tap water, I can’t choose it. We all drink the same. ” Hence the name of the initiative – “clean water,” she said, pouring herself a glass of the precious liquid.
She then decides to take matters into her own hands, launches a petition, does not achieve anything concrete. Then turns to a more radical solution, “the tools of direct democracy”: an initiative. On the strength of recent experience in collecting signatures for the closure of the Mühleberg nuclear power plant – since decommissioning – Franziska Herren and a few faithful collect the 100,000 initials required. We are in 2018. By the time his project reaches the top of the pile, it will be put to the vote on June 13, a date that many farmers have noted in the red pen in the diary. A defiant red. A red with anger.
“The peasants play the game of industries which oppress them”
“When I see the posters twice no, it saddens me, laments the initiator. I have nothing against farmers. On the contrary! These are the main victims of the system put in place by those who benefit the most, like Fenaco [l’un des principaux fournisseurs d’agents agricoles, semences, fourrages et produits nutritionnels en Suisse, ndlr] or Syngenta (Swiss multinational chemical and agrifood company). By opposing my text, they play into the hands of these industries, while they oppress them while enriching themselves. A change will not be easy, but contrary to what we hear, my text does not want the death of the peasants. The latter benefit from investment aid and, if my proposal is accepted, their transition will be supported by the State. ”
The Bernoise says she is “furious” at the current “disinformation” on the part of agricultural lobbies. “Swiss animal products are sold as ecological, but part of the food given to the animals comes from Brazil. These imports make it possible to feed a surplus number of animals, which generate quantities of ammonia and slurry that are catastrophic for the environment. While alternative solutions exist! As organic farming has shown. It is above all that that I do not understand. Why continue to deteriorate nature when there are other ways to do it? The populations of insects and birds are collapsing, the waters are polluted, the Federal Council has recognized that the concentrations of pesticides and fertilizers are too high in the waterways. It’s time to act.”
“We always have the choice”
To those who accuse her of only asking the peasants for efforts, she replies without flinching: “In 2017, more than 78% of the people accepted the initiative on” food security “, which calls for the preservation of the land. agriculture, production adapted to the resources and trade relations that contribute to sustainable development. It was supported by all the agricultural lobbies. The same people who are now offended by my text! However, I am not asking for the impossible, everything is already there. The article is simply not respected. ”
And to farmers who say they can’t change so easily, she points out that nothing is set in stone. “We always have the choice. I myself am an entrepreneur. Change is always possible. For the future of our children, it is now necessary. In addition to the billions of already existing subsidies, the initiative plans to support the transition by reorienting research, agricultural training and investment aid. This is also why what we are proposing is supported by part of the peasant world. It is wrong to say that all farmers are against it. During interventions with agricultural schools, I have also often convinced. But the information available to the public and professionals is insufficient. ”
A few weeks before the verdict, the campaign ignites and the pressure increases. Until flirting with the breaking point: “It pushes me to the limit of my strength, concedes the Bernoise. After raising two children as a single mother, this is the biggest challenge I have had to face. But I will commit until the last moment. ” Then she will take a few vacation, she said. Before potentially returning to combat. “In the context of the hyperpolluting textile sector, this time. I’m still thinking about it. ” Wiedlisbach does not seem to have to pick up his aerobics teacher anytime soon.