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The French association FNEC
FNEC, the French Goat Farmers Union, represents all goat breeders in France, those who produce milk and those who process their milk on the farm into farmhouse cheese and other dairy products.
Origin and management
FNEC was created in 1958 by a group of farmhouse goat cheese makers who wanted to work on regulation issues for small scale dairies and protect farmhouse cheese specificities in a period where raw milk products were threatened. With the development of goat milk production and, over all, farmhouse cheese production, FNEC has steadily increased its number of members. In 2018, our association counted more than 2.300 members, half of wich were farmhouse cheesemakers.
Members of FNEC are not directly the producers but their local or regional associations (goat farmers and in some cases farmhouse cheese makers processing cow and sheep milk as well). Each year, these associations fill in a membership form declaring the number of producers they represent.
FNEC is managed by a council composed of 33 farmers, all of them working on a voluntary basis. They are chosen by each local association. The council members are designated for a four-year period, and can be reappointed. The council designates among its members a board composed of nine farmers. The board is responsible for operational decisions and works closely with the administrative team. The administrative team is composed of a director and a project manager working full time as well as an assistant working part time.
The FNEC head office is in Paris, in a building called “Maison du lait”, where all the associations and federations working on dairy issues are gathered.
All producers are invited to the annual General Assembly, organised by a different local association in a different region each year. Each member (i.e. each local / regional association) holds a number of votes based on the number of producers it represents.
The General Assembly is for instance responsible for:
- endorsement of new members and council members
- approval of the annual budget
- amendment of the statutes and internal rules
- determine the annual membership fee (50 € / producer in 2019).
And taking any important decisions concerning the goat and farmhouse cheese sector.
The General Assembly is an important event for our federation and very much appreciated by our producers. With farms visits, gala diners, cheese and other goat product tastings we aim to make it an enjoyable moment.
What are the benefits of being member of FNEC?
Being a member of FNEC means supporting and benefitting from a constant work for the needs of goat breeders and especially farmhouse cheese makers.
Indeed, decisions taken at national or European level directly concern farmers and farmhouse cheesemakers in their daily lives. The role of FNEC is therefore essential for farmhouse cheese makers, and our work is organised around three main issues:
lobbying and regulation,
research on farmhouse cheese making,
promotion of the diversity and richness of farmhouse cheese and dairy products.
Lobbying and regulation
Since its creation, FNEC’s main objective has been to work on regulation in order to adapt sanitary and labelling regulation to small scale farmhouse cheesemakers.
In the 80’s FNEC had to work hard to protect raw milk products, in the 90’s our association wrote the first guide to good practices for farmhouse cheese and dairy products, updated in 2004, before writing the FACE network European Guide. This constant work (meetings with national authorities, negotiations at local and national level) has led to an adapted implementation of the Hygiene package and a more favourable situation for farmhouse cheesemakers.
But still, any problem with a local sanitary authority or inspector can happen, and FNEC remains at the disposal of ity local associations in order to support them and help them solve the problems occuring.
In case of a sanitary alert, FNEC helps the producer and its technician to solve the alert thanks to its technical knowledge and the contacts to the administration. Moreover, we have worked with insurance companies in order to set up a special insurance adapted to small scale dairies that can support the cost of the alert, including loss of clients and damage to the image of the dairy.
Since the beginning, FNEC also works very closely with FNPL, the French dairy farmer’s federation, by organising technical meetings, working together on raw milk for consumption, farmhouse butter and cream regulation and research.
Research of farmhouse cheese making
FNEC is also strongly linked to Institut de l’Elevage (French Livestock Institute), as it provides the farmhouse dairy sector with research and references concerning farmhouse dairy products.
Our association has regular meetings with Institut de l’Elevage and other research institutes in order to set up and pilot projects on farmhouse cheese making, notably concerning the hygienic quality of milk. So, we have worked recently in a project concerning means of preventing pathogenic E. Coli STEC in farmhouse ai.
FNEC and Institut de l’Elevage pilot a network of 200 technicians specialised in farmhouse milk processing: we provide technical and regulatory information, and organise trainings several times a year.
Promotion of farmhouse dairy products
Since 1977, FNEC organises Fromagora, the unique French farmhouse goat cheese contest. This year, European farmhouse and artisan cheese makers have been invited to participate, in order to honour the work initiated ten years ago with other European countries, which led to the creation of FACE network. A conference on the current issue around raw milk cheeses will take place during Fromagora. It is a very important issue for our producers and we have been working very hard this year to protect raw milk products after the French Ministry of Agriculture published recommendations forbidding consumption of raw milk products for children under five.
To conclude, the aim of FNEC is to obtain a better consideration of the specificities of goat farmers and mostly farmhouse cheesemakers, by promoting an understanding of the issues of farmhouse dairies, and ensuring constantly the defence of their interests at a French but also European level, in order to keep a favourable environment for farmhouse cheese makers in France, and in Europe.