The long running conflict between France’s viticulture community and their neighbors escalated to a violent in July. Police arrested a man in Provence after he admitted to shooting at his neighbor, a winegrower, during an evening vine-spraying.
The grower requested anonymity, but a farmer’s coalition French Farming Federation (FDSEA) and the Provence wine council (CIVP) are advocating on behalf of the victim.
“During the night, he [the grower] was shot at twice with a rifle while he was spraying his vines with Bordeaux mixture. At the first shot, he thought he had punctured a tyre. On the second shot, he thought he had knocked over an empty Coke can in his cab with his arm,” explained Laurent Grimaud, Secretary General of the Var farmers’ union. “It was only when he went back to his shed to rinse out the tank of his pneumatic sprayer that he realized it was leaking, after being pierced by two bullet holes.”
The gendarmes were summoned to the scene where they launched an investigation. Ballistics determined that the shot came from a house located about 30 meters from the vineyard according to authorities. The building’s occupant admitted taking to shots at his neighbor, but pleaded drunkenness as an excuse.
“That’s no excuse,” said Grimaud. “We’re used to being insulted or filmed when we’re spraying, but this is the first time someone has been shot at.”
Police agreed with Grimaud and arrested the shooter. A trial is pending.
The incident is only the most recent clash between farmers and neighbors. One hot button issue in these conflicts has been nocturnal sprayings. Farmers often treat their crops at night due to more favorable conditions, but neighbors complain that the practice creates a noise issue.
“In Var, we all spray by night when the wind drops and the vines are the most receptive. It takes a tractor 10 minutes to spray a vineyard. It’s like a dustbin lorry that comes along at 5 am, it doesn’t bother anyone,” countered Grimaud.
A civil suit was filed on the victim’s behalf. In addition, the coalition sent President Emmanuel Macron a letter pleading for added farmer protections.