France passes law to protect farmers against neighbours’ complaints over noise and smells

By Geert De Clercq

PARIS (Reuters) – French parliament has passed a law to protect farmers from complaints from neighbours about noise or stench from agricultural activities, to stop “abusive” lawsuits from former city dwellers who bought houses in the countryside.

The bill, put forward by ruling majority MP Nicole Le Peih and supported by President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist government, was approved 78 votes to 12 overnight on Monday and will now proceed to the Senate.

“This law will put an end to abusive lawsuits against farmers who do nothing but their job: feed us. It is a common-sense proposal, country-side common-sense,” Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti said on social media platform X.

French governments have long courted farmers, an influential sector that Paris ignores at its peril.

The country has a history of conflicts between former city dwellers buying country houses and then complaining about roosters crowing, dogs barking, the noise of agricultural machinery or the smell of manure.

BFM TV reported that nearly 500 farmers are currently facing lawsuits from neighbours taking issue with noise, or smells, emanating from their farms.

In 2019, in a case that caught international media attention, a court ruled that a rooster called Maurice could continue his dawn crowing despite complaints from neighbours in a village on a small island off France’s Atlantic coast.

France already has legislation, introduced in 2021, to protect the “the French countryside’s sensory heritage”, but the new law aims to give more protection to existing farms from newly arrived residents in the area.

“Proud to support those who work in our fields. Now to the Senate,” farming union FNSEA Deputy Chairman Luc Smessaert said on X.

Brittany region environmentalist Claire Desmares told local radio France Bleu that the proposed law is an “absurd and populist” measure proposed by the powerful agricultural lobby.

(Reporting by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Sharon Singleton)