Farmers still count for a lot in France, despite their shrinking numbers. Scarcely four per cent of the workforce now earns a living in agriculture. Yet, every politician knows that the country has a huge stake in farming— France is second only to the United States as an agricultural exporter—and that farmer unions wield clout. Farmers have cultural leverage as well. Rolling fields and rural hamlets still figure prominently in most people’s mental image of what makes France French and its social fabric whole.

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