10 May 2013
Australia without family farmers is not ‘viable’
Right now, as a consequence of political decisions, many thousands of family farmers across Australia face immediate ruin:
600-1200 family farmers in WA’s eastern wheat belt are under siege by the banks and both the state and federal
governments, which are conspiring to starve the farmers of credit in order to force them off the land and/or privatise
and sell their cooperative to foreign grain cartels.
Many hundreds of beef producers in northern Australia have been blindsided by the government’s outright sabotage of their export markets, which has caused a glut of
beef on the domestic market that has driven down the price of cattle from $500-1000 per head, to as low as $20,
leaving hundreds bankrupt and suicidal. Hundreds of both fruit growers and dairy farmers in northern Victoria are getting smashed by the government’s
policy of free trade, which is forcing the SPC Ardmona cannery in Shepparton to drastically reduce production, and has collapsed the price of milk way below the cost of production.
However, the government, which has caused these crises, is hammering the farmers with the message that they aren’t “viable”.
The CEC exposed in its June/July 2012 New Citizen newspaper that the number of genuine family farms in Australia as of 2010 hit the dangerously-low figure of
40,000, down sharply from 120,000 two decades earlier in 1991, and from 204,000 in 1953.
If the people of Australia tolerate their governments, of both major parties, continuing to aggressively drive family farmers out of agriculture—whether for reasons of free
trade, banker-rationed finance, or green fascism (including that of the vegetarian militants who purport to speak for animals)—they face the very real prospect that their nation will not be viable.
The present crisis is a mortal threat to Australia’s food security. Corporate agribusinesses would be lying in wait to acquire some of these farming operations, but they
do not guarantee a nation’s food security. Agribusinesses only produce when it suits their bottom line, and often on contract to global supply chains, regardless of domestic
food needs. Only strong family farms that produce reliably, prioritise the domestic market and export surpluses, and nurture the land to pass on to future generations, guarantee a nation’s food security.
The present crisis is also a threat to the global food supply. An estimated one billion people around the world go hungry every day, while the two sectors where family
farmers are being smashed, wheat and beef, are Australia’s two biggest agricultural exports.
Australia is the second largest wheat exporter after the U.S., and WA’s wheat growers produce the majority of the Australian crop. The government is letting the banks
destroy WA’s growers, at a time when drought and freezing temperatures in the U.S. are expected to reduce that nation’s 2013 winter crop by 25 per cent, and dry conditions
are reducing wheat production in Russia, traditionally the world’s third-largest wheat exporter.
Australia’s live beef exports to Indonesia significantly increased the protein consumption of millions of low-income people in that nation.
Australia’s meat export markets in the Middle East include some of the nations where food shortages triggered the overthrow of national governments in 2011.
Australia’s self-inflicted crisis exacerbates a global shortage: U.S. beef production, which represents one-fifth of global output, is expected to fall sharply this year.
There is no reason for any presently struggling wheat grower, beef producer, fruit grower or dairy farmer to lose their farms. It is entirely within the government’s power to immediately declare a moratorium on farm foreclosures;
order the banks to renegotiate farm debt at lower interest; establish a government agency for farmers to borrow at low interest to finance their crops and capital upgrades; impose tariffs on canned fruit imports, and announce penalties on Coles and Woolworths for further abusing their market dominance by sourcing fruit and vegetables from overseas that are produced domestically; establish government-to-government contracts with nations such as Indonesia, to resume the supply of beef, with our government guaranteeing both the supply to Indonesia, and the price to Australia’s
producers; such contracts should also be sought in the Middle East and Africa.
The only long-term solution, however, is that the government must enact a Glass-Steagall separation of essential
banking services from speculative investment banking, so as to protect and prioritise credit for agricultural production. The government must then establish a national bank,
owned and managed by the government, which will direct long-term credit into strengthening and expanding the nation’s food production. This would include, for instance,
investing in more domestic meat processing capacity, of which the present crisis has shown Australia to be woefully short.
Citizens Electoral Council leader Craig Isherwood declared today, “The decision before the government is not a business decision, it is a national interest decision. Any
family farmers that are forced off the land by this crisis will be the clear victims of the government’s deliberate intention, for which the government must be held to account.
“That is up to the Australian people,” he continued. “If you understand the importance of family farmers to Australia’s viability as a nation, and are willing to take responsibility to fight for the nation’s future, join the CEC.”