Food security in Australia

John Muir hemp farmingThe plight of farmers is of particular concern to me at the moment. Farmers losing their livelihood is a personal face on the huge issues of food sovereignty and production. It is another area where the current flawed application of the free market system is causing a great deal of heartache, not to mention starvation.

You’d think someone who busts a gut humping a tractor 18 hours a day to produce food, which everyone needs, would get a bit of respect. Instead, price wars between the duopoly and free trade agreements see farmers being offered $6 a tonne for pears.

At a time when some are claiming humans lack the ability to feed the world.

Food price speculation is a battleground. Proponents claim that the free market theory applied to food results in distribution according to demand. Progressives point to evidence of starvation in the two thirds world, monopolies on production and distribution and the sheer waste produced in industrialised nations as demonstration that the free market is bastardised by the faulty economics of externalities. If social and environmental costs are tallied up as normal operating costs rather than passed off onto struggling public agencies, things run a lot more smoothly. And do what trade’s supposed to do, which is get people fed. Find a need and meet it. That’s what business does. The share/profit bubble is the result of bad accounting, which is being addressed by people in business and government all over the planet now.

sa farmer

If the free market was going to work with arbitrary national laws and the public wearing the cost of the accounting error with externalities, the people growing our food would be paid a fair amount for the work they do. Everyone knows that’s not what’s happening. Not only are farmers not being fairly paid, their basic security is down the sewer. The story of Charlie Phillott is particularly interesting, he wasn’t even behind on his mortgage and the bank threw him out. Those social and environmental externalities need to be entered as debits, not credits. Pay them like you pay the rent for a tower office building. Palming off the social costs of kicking people off the land does not result in more profit, it’s a bloody accounting error. It looks good on paper for five minutes before you realise something’s really fucking wrong.

Aside from being paid fairly, how about a bit of bloody respect? Agriculture is one of humanity’s oldest technologies. We’ve been farmers for 10,000 years. Everything else we’ve done, culture, technology, language, art, cities, is all built on reliance on farming. Yet the livelihood and social collateral of family farmers in Australia seems oddly understated in debate about food security. Our illustrious PM blamed suicide rates in the bush on the Carbon tax.

Now that we’re able to build pos-net housing, have automated most farming including ploughing and harvest, and anyone can get on the net for education, socialising, travel and games, why would people not aspire to grow up to be market gardeners? It’s about the most constructive thing a person can do. Everything else humanity does depends on it. And farming and gardening provide most of what they produce by growing things that take Carbon out of the air to grow. How ambitious do you want to be? Is saving the planet on your bucket list? How about feeding the world?

Addressing the externalities and resulting bubble fixes a lot more than just dodgy accounting. It gives us a more honest, authentic way to assess value. It provides the economic support to find needs and meet them, sustainably. Instead of hamstringing new technology in the interests of corporate monopolies, it encourages development and local secondary industry. Put the externalities in the debits column and suddenly the whole world looks different, can you picture it?

I think this is what the US Libertarians are on about, except when they say “de-regulation” everyone’s picturing factories exploding. So don’t say “de-regulation,” say “pay the rent.” It’s a different psychology. A different feel. Puts us all at the table because we’re all in business here. That’s what humans do when they’re not fighting over shit. They get on with business. SME’s already pay their rent. It’s the multi-nats who are tax dodging and raking in corporate welfare that are at issue here. It’s not too much to expect the same rules to be applied fairly whether you’re dealing with one market garden or sheep stations. Especially when the application of said rules will result in better conditions for 95% of the people on the planet.

If we organise business tax well, we could eliminate income tax.

To have a profitable, stable business environment, you like people to be secure and be able to spend enough money to keep everything ticking over. Unless you’re a member of the Bush family and milk a bubble by arming both sides of a fabricated conflict. Again with the social costs. When they’re your legs getting blown off, you tend to tally that a little differently. A stable business environment is preferable to anyone who prefers a t-shirt to a kevlar vest. You’d have to be pretty keen on 3D prosthetics to sign up for a war these days.

I am unable to find an image of the amputee chorus line from the movie War Inc. You’ll have to imagine it.

Food security is up there with housing as one of the most basic things any community needs in order to function, let alone survive sustainably. Can we start thinking about real production and the lives of the people who grow food and eat it, rather than share prices in some hallucination in a stock exchange built on an accounting error?

That would be great, thanks.


About Syburi

Witch, bitch, creatrix; hippie, dreamer, gardener. Lover of books, music, rescue animals, piss and vinegar.
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