In March 2012, the French AMAP, Associations pour le maintien d’une agriculture paysanne, Association for Maintaining Small Scale Family Farming in English, came surprisingly under the political limelight: they were object of a question to the government, asked by two deputies from the opposition. The purpose of these interventions were mainly to push for a derogatory tax exemption for the AMAP.
The answer from the government was the following:
“The Associations pour le Maintien d’une Agriculture Paysanne (AMAP) have been designed to create a direct link between a producer and some consumers, who commit themselves to buy his production at a fair price allowing the producer to cover his production costs and to generate an income, while remaining accessible to consumers. (…) An AMAP that guarantees to a professional the sale of his production through connecting (even without commission) the members to the producer, contributes to the economic development of the farm. The AMAP activity is thus considered to be profitable and should be subject to commercial taxes.”
This exchange in the Parliament fostered a controversy: are AMAP “business as usual” or associative not-for-profit structures run by self-organised citizens with the objective of serving the general interest?
The Amap leaders reacted by stressing the notion of general interest and the claim to be a social movement. However, the mere fact that the actors themselves are expressing a will to be considered as such is not enough to validate their claim. This paper refers to objective indicators in order to consider the French AMAP as a social movement.
- The development of the French AMAP model, since the early 2000s (the first AMAP groups were born in 2001), cannot be considered separately from a global context marked by the multiplication of local food initiatives, especially the Community Supported Agriculture movement, to which the Amap clearly and consciously belong;
- The AMAP are one of the Local and Solidarity -Based Partnerships between producers and consumers, one among many others;
- The AMAP find their origins in the encounter of two social movements, and have given themselves a charter containing 18 fundamental principles;
- The everyday AMAP management relies on core groups, made up of committed volunteers.
By focusing on 4 cardinal reasons that allow us to speak of a social movement, this article depicts quite precisely the AMAP model mechanisms, and, relying on first hand census and figures, opens up on the challenges faced by the Community Supported Agriculture Movement worldwide.