by Isabelle Poitout, Law Counsel, LES CHAMPS DU DROIT, WI&NE Provence-Rhône
Translated by Nathalie Parent Dumoulin, Founder, NEXT EDITION, WI&NE Nouvelle-Aquitaine
Farmland is often targeted for infrastructure projects, causing disruptions to agribusiness operations. Given the unique nature of winegrowing, insightful counsel during the creation of the expropriation case file is crucial.
- THOU SHALT CONSULT YOUR LAWYER AND ACCOUNTANT RAPIDLY to discuss and contest the terms of the amicable offer before time runs out, typically six weeks. More often than none, the offer will get to you during harvesting season. Beware! A lack of response will mean approval.
- THOU SHALT NOT FOCUS ON THE PRICE OF LAND. Instead, you should concentrate on the market value of the land, which is determined by the SAFERs (French abbreviation for Land Development & Rural Settlement Companies) scale. Focus on the “prompt, adequate, and effective compensation”.
- THOU SHALT PRIORITIZE WISELY YOUR ANCILLARY COMPENSATION. It is crucial to prioritize the compensation for any additional losses. The expropriated plots might be the core of your entire operation. Losing them could mean losing the grape variety needed to obtain the PDO, creating detours of several kilometers due to the public road or TGV line that will be constructed, rebuilding the irrigation works or headlands, and so on. Based on estimates, the losses will be compensated. However, it is crucial to note that the financial interest of an expropriation dossier lies in the financial arrangements for so-called “ancillary” claims, which are not actually ancillary.
- THOU SHALT OR SHALT NOT FOLLOW GUIDANCE. The French Chambers of Agriculture (APCA) and tax authorities draw up compensation protocols that suggest ratios as a methodology, but following them is not compulsory.
- THOU SHALT CALCULATE THE ECONOMIC EVICTION INDEMNITY to determine the value of expropriated land for the estate. This is by far the most demanding task.
- THOU SHALT EXTEND THE DURATION OF TIME TO REBUILD THE BUSINESS OPERATIONS. Compensation protocols set a duration to restore pre-expropriation conditions. The economic eviction indemnity is then multiplied accordingly. Typically, this duration is set to three years, but in the case of organic farming, it can be up to five years. As a result, the economic eviction indemnity can be multiplied by five (5) instead of three (3) or more, depending on the specific case.
- THOU SHALT REFER TO THE EXPROPRIATION JUDGE IF NEGOTIATIONS FAIL. If you cannot agree on specific points, do not hesitate to refer the matter to the expropriation judge. In such cases, compensation may increase significantly, ranging from 20% to 100%. You can also benefit from an advance payment for undisputed compensation.
Isabelle POITOUT, member of the PARIS Bar Association
Specialist in Public and Environmental Law
LES CHAMPS DU DROIT
WI&NE Provence-Rhône member