ANC protests spread in France
French farmers blocking major roads have extended their action this week in protest at proposed changes to the areas eligible for Areas of Natural Constraints (ANC) payments.

Protesters have used tractors, trailers, burning straw and tyres to stage road blocks on motorways and access roads to major towns across the country. The protests started in the south-western region of the country at the end of January and remain intense there, with local media reporting a blockade of all roads leading to the town of Auch since Monday. They have spread northwards towards Paris this week, with the main motorway connecting the capital to the region cut off by protesters this Wednesday.

Farming organisations oppose the removal of eligibility to ANC payments from a number of areas. At a meeting with farmer representatives, French Agriculture Minister Stéphane Travert said the number of French farmers eligible to ANC payments would increase from 52,500 to 60,000. However, he acknowledged that new criteria had led to the exclusion of less severely handicapped areas from the map to be submitted by France to the European Commission next month.

In Ireland, where 95,000 farmers are currently in the ANC scheme, the Department of Agriculture has not yet given details of the map resulting from new criteria for application next year.

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Rotterdam's €2.6m floating farm: dairy future or publicity stunt?
The Irish Farmers Journal was among the first media to visit a Dutch urban floating dairy farm since construction started this month.

As cargo ships exporting millions of tonnes of Dutch dairy products sail from Rotterdam Europort, a floating concrete base anchored in the docks this month is now being fitted with the three-storey structure that will become the world's first floating dairy farm by the end of this year.

The €2.6m investment will host 40 cows, which will roam freely between the on-board milking and feeding robots, and a small grazing patch on the quays, said Minke van Wingerden of the specialist floating construction firm Beladon, whcih is supporting the project. Young stock will be reared on a traditional farm outside the city.

Urban by-product feed

After failing to grow their own fodder under artificial light in the platform's hold, the farm's manager has struck agreements with food processors in the city, including brewers, to source 80% of the farm's feed from industrial by-products.

The floating structure will include a processing plant to make fresh products, such as yoghurt, for sale to neighbouring urban customers. Rainwater harvesting and a purification system, separating manure between organic fertiliser and clean water released into the harbour, complete the farm's efforts to be as circular as possible.

The port authority thought we were nuts

The farm aims to bring country and city closer together – as illustrated by initial problems in setting it up: "Our neighbour is a kiwi [fruit] distributor and was worried about the smell getting into kiwis," van Wingerden said. "The port authority thought we were nuts. You need to have these discussions."

Her firm has now obtained permission to build a chicken farm and a greenhouse on two more floating structures in the same dock, she added.

The farm has not yet worked out its milk production costs, but van Wingerden said that its dairy products would be more expensive than those on regular supermarket shelves. "The business case is OK, because we sell tickets to visitors and will offer venue hire, but we would advise to make it bigger to be profitable," van Wingerden said.

Cuddle the cows

A privately-owned commercial venture, the floating farm is also fundraising online to buy its cows. "For €1,500 you can donate a cow and you may name her yourself. We will take a pretty picture of you and the cow," its website suggests. Should a company wish to become a corporate sponsor for €500, "every year, two employees can come and cuddle the cows – free of charge!"

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Eight agri-food French fun facts for Bastille Day
With France in the World Cup final this Bastille Day weekend, here are some facts to impress your friends over a slice of camembert and a glass of bordeaux.

Let them eat brioche – on certain dates

Saturday's national holiday celebrates 14 July 1789, when revolting Parisians stormed the Bastille fortress. Queen Marie-Antoine reportedly said that of the masses deprived of bread: "Let them eat cake." In fact, she said "brioche", which is entirely different. In fact, she probably never said it at all.

Nevertheless, the French Revolution resulted in over 200 years of strict regulations on Parisian bakers. This summer is only the fourth they can take holidays as they please – until 2014, their closing dates were tightly controlled to ensure bread shortage did not result in public disorder over the summer break.

Cocorico for French victory

The symbol of the French football federation and other national sports organisations is a cockerel. This dates back to ancient times, when the Gaul tribe and poultry shared the same Latin name – Gallus. Les Bleus are therefore the only team wearing a jersey decorated after a Roman pun on farm animals. Should they win the World Cup, French media will predictably use the standard headline applied to trumpet any French victory: “Cocorico!” (which translates as “cock a doodle do”).

Wine scandal

France is currently the scene of the biggest food-labelling fraud outrage since the horsemeat scandal. Investigators have uncovered millions of wine bottles labelled as French while their content was in fact Spanish – and cheaper. Sacrebleu! Heads will roll.

Cheese luggage

French airports have unique safety instructions.

Biogas

The French gas network has connected around 50 farm-based anaerobic digestors to the national grid in the past three years. The country has a national target of 10% of network gas from farm or food waste by 2030.

Escargot

The French eat an estimated 30,000t of snails every year, according to industry figures. They only produce a fraction of that and the rest is imported from northern and eastern Europe, including Ireland.

Migrant oysters

Millions of oysters travel back and forth between France and Ireland every year to make the best of both countries, water quality, temperature and disease risk. A common oyster farming system is to breed in France, fatten in Ireland and finish in France.

Lamb, beef and whiskey

Despite difficulties in the red meat market in recent years, France remains Ireland’s top lamb export destination and its second beef market after the UK, taking in 52,000t last year. It is also the third-largest buyer of Irish whiskey.