Friday, February 6, 2009

A Ranchers thoughts on food.

Although I wrote this last summer on a different Blog I feel it is valid today and so like the CBC I am offering quality repeats!

A Ranchers thoughts on Food
I was reading Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper web site a couple of days ago and came across an opinion column blasting the Dairy farming sectors Supply Management system. Now I won't get into the pros and cons of it in this article but what really got my interest was the comments section on the piece this morning on the web site. The total lack of understanding by people who think their opinion is right and with comments and thoughts that just blew me away. People, IF YOU EAT, YOU ARE INVOLVED IN AGRICULTURE, that is a simple fact that you can't argue with, whether you're an omnivore, carnivore , vegetarian or vegan.Stating that farmers need to get more efficient is ridiculous, we are the only group that has gone from feeding our family and a few extra people with our excess production, to feeding 100 to 200 people / farmer. All of that achieved when we had a huge drop in the number of farmers, approximately 40% of the population were farming 100 years ago compared to barely1% today. Industry only dreams of those kind of efficiencies.The real topper was suggesting if the farmer can't make a profit let him quit farming and we can buy our food from some one else. This works with cheap fuel and overseas agriculture, but did you see the price of gas lately. Shipping on the ocean, one of the cheapest forms of transportation went up 73% in the last three months! Airlines are laying of staff and parking planes, so all those fresh greens and salads that are flown in are going up in price for sure. If your gas went up at the pump it also went up for the farmer, here as well as abroad ,so did his cost of fertiliser and other inputs. Its OK though don't worry , you won't pay for his increases as the farmer will still get the same price and he will just have to swallow the cost (trust me,I know), the extra you pay will only go to the retailer , wholesaler and transportation costs as it always has. The farmers who can't make a profit will go the way of the Dodo and you will still have cheap food and disposable income left over for the important stuff like big screen TVs, DVDs,gas to run around in the second or third vehicle, all the good stuff that creates profits and jobs so every one is happy. OH the blissful joy, Bread and Circuses!!Unless you are one of the 850 million who goes hungry ever day and who's number is growing rapidly buy the minute. Hunger is something that happens "over there" and doesn't affect us so we can still complain about high prices and can still have the fridge full of food and some bagged snacks for the movies we are watching in front of the big screen. When it comes to prices and purchasing we all believe in free market economy so we get the lowest price but when it comes to our job security we want some protection. Say wait, that sounds like a subsidy to me, yet you tell me farmers should not get them, and yet you insist the world will come to an end if we don't save your job. Well it might do for you ,but that's OK because you could not compete or we just don't need you any more, just like those farmers. The Auto industry is suffering here in Canada due to poor decisions by management, resulting in inefficiencies, and GM wants to shut down plants. Well if you made cheap to run autos like the Europeans instead of big rigs that need a mortgage to purchase and a second one to put gas in the tank you might still be viable. The folks that will loose their jobs figure that they should keep those jobs and government should bail them out , but isn't that a subsidy the same thing those same people wish to deny the farmers?The big difference here is that we can live with out cars , though I admit it would take some major adjustments, but living without food is a short term thing, a week or two for most of us, a little longer for those with built in reserves. Food is the same as water and air, essential for human life, it should be respected and revered and yet we have debased and commercialised food to such a degree it is just another commodity to trade, make money on , and speculate with. I started my farming career many years ago in Agriculture ,now it is agribusiness, same as any other business, "dog eat dog and devil takes the hind most". Once mankind learnt how to produce more food than he could consume people could do other things and so villages , towns and cities grew, Guilds formed in the Middle Ages and then expansion into the New World, the industrial revolution came and today all the advances and technology we have all comes back to an abundant food supply ensuring people were free from growing there own food to pursue other ideas and occupations. Lately a cheap food policy has kept this in place to ensure our capitalistic/ consumer society continues ,providing jobs ,security and most of all profit to those who are in the position to collect it. When profits were tough to find costs were cut suppliers squeezed and life went on. Now though there appears to be cracks in the system and the hens are coming home to roost. Cheap food is going up in price as every thing used in its production has gone up considerably, and the law of Diminishing Returns is starting to bite, especially down on the farm and ranch( I have the teeth marks to prove it).Buy now you are probably wondering if the rancher writing this is getting some of all those big subsidies you read about in the corporate controlled newspapers. Truth is I have not signed on for any of the government programs offered over my farming career as most were worth less than the time it cost me to complete the reams of paper work involved in the application forms. It also often gave the government some control over my ranch management which I am totally opposed to. Most of all though I feel the money should come from the market place but until we can break the monopoly of a very few large corporations who control the price of farm commodities and farm inputs, much like a communist government ,which is strange for such a free market entity as a multi national corporation. I feel little will change until enough people are truly hungry and pick up a gun and allow history to repeat itself again, thus bringing about a new change. Or will it be as The Who sang, "meet the new boss, same as the old boss'.As G.K. Chesterton said. "Too much capitalism does not mean there are too many capitalists, but too few capitalists".
Posted by Rob Fensom at 6:19 AM 0 comments
Friday, June 13, 2008

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