The Federal Council abused its direct counter-proposal to the popular initiative “food security” to implant a free trade agricultural project in the Constitution.
Last summer, the Federal Popular Initiative for Food Security has been submitted. In just three months, 147,812 signatures were collected. This shows that there is a real need “to supply the population with food from diverse and sustainable local production,” as required by the initiative. The initiative also includes “effective measures particularly against the loss of agricultural land, including the summer grazing areas”. Next, the federal government is to ensure “that the administrative effort in agriculture is low and the legal certainty and adequate investment security are guaranteed.” With this initiative from the midst of the population our agriculture regains the necessary political and economic support.
Now the Federal Council has submitted a counter-proposal to the popular initiative “For food security” to the consultation process. The 25-page accompanying the counter-proposal aims at selling it as the best way to food security. A closer look at the text of the draft, however, shows that this is pure manipulation (Neuro Linguistic Programming).1 The counter-proposal is indeed subtitled “Art. 102a Food Security.” “Food security” turns out to be merely an empty word that has nothing to do with the people’s initiative for food security – on the contrary. The counter-proposal wants to implant “a competitive agriculture and food industry” under “c” and under “d” the “access to the international agricultural markets”. With this our producing agriculture should be forced to go on the global market, where it will be neither competitive nor viable. How should our farmers with an average farm size of 17 ha withstand the US industrial agriculture with average farm sizes of 190 ha?
This is a targeted shot in the back of the population and the agriculture. The initiative calls for “food security” in the truest sense of the word: “to supply the population with food from diverse and sustainable local production”. Therein is not a word about free trade to be found. The local agriculture as base of a solid country supply should be strengthened. The counter-proposal is limited to “a site-adapted and resource-efficient production of food.” No more talk about domestic and local.
And where – if you please – should the production take place? For the vegetables may be in Spain? Since there the vegetation period begins earlier and human resources resp. drudges from Africa can be fobbed off more efficiently – i.e. cheaper? Feeding on foodstuffs from US industrial conglomerates, allegedly because of resource-efficiency? It is no coincidence that the Swiss Association for a Strong Agricultural and Food Sector (SALS Switzerland) denotes the counter-proposal of the Federal Council as a Trojan Horse which hides “an agricultural free trade project” under the guise of food security.2
The question arises whether the counter-proposal is to be understood in connection with the proposed free trade agreement TTIP/TAFTA between the US and the EU, which has been negotiated in greatest secrecy for some time. In the Swiss Parliament an interpellation was filed with the question, “Does the transatlantic trade and investment partnership between the EU and the US, endanger the Swiss food standard?” Not that in the Federal Council’s response of 15.5.2014, there is talk of concrete “options” in relation to the “competitiveness of the Swiss economy” and “the attractiveness of the business location Switzerland”. “Part of these options might also be the opportunity to negotiate an FTA with the United States or a docking on to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)” – says the Federal Council.3
It can be assumed that the “docking” on to TTIP in agriculture is to be prepared with the counter-proposal in anticipatory subservience.
Agricultural policy affects everyone, whether he is engaged in farming or whether he comes to enjoy the fruits of its labor. What is needed is that all stand together, determinedly. Everybody can contribute to the consultation concerning the counter-proposal of the Federal Council in a short and concise or detailed manner. Electronically to firstname.lastname@example.org or by paper mail. The consultation runs until 14.4.2015. The participation makes sense. For certainly, the Federal Council will have to withdraw its counter-proposal when there is appropriate contrary wind. •
1 Since the late 1990s, the Federal Council uses this manipulation method to enforce its interests bypassing the people. Cf. Judith Barben, Spin Doctors im Bundeshaus. Gefährdungen der direkten Demokratie durch Manipulation und Propaganda (Spin Doctors in the House of Parliament. Hazards of direct democracy through manipulation and propaganda.) ISBN 978-3-033-01916-4
2 Schweizer Bauer of 14.1.2015, counter-proposal: SALS speaks of a Trojan Horse
3 Interpellation 14.3111 by Thomas Böhni from 18.3.2014
In Italy, the dairy farmers’ protest against falling prices and the abolition of milk quotas in the EU are scheduled to end of March. [...] They followed a call of the agricultural association Coldiretti. It worries about heavy losses for the Italian dairy farmers. [...] With prices of 0.35 euro per liter one will not even be able to cover the feedingcosts for the cows.
Schweizer Bauer from 24.1.2015
[...] In the name of competitiveness the Federal Council might take very questionable decisions for agriculture. [...] Our working conditions are not comparable with those of our colleagues in the EU; we must accept this. Who aims at similar costs and prices, is deceiving himself. Our costs are corresponding to the standard of living in Switzerland, there is no alternative. [...] Even today, we have to struggle with the consequences of the outwardly innocuous sentence of Article 104 of the Constitution: „The federal government will ensure that agriculture … through a sustainable production aligned to the market....“ It would have been enough to include sustainability into the Constitution because this is by definition a system which focuses on the ecological, social and economic balance. But no, the production had to be aligned to the market to satisfy certain political and economic circles. The result: Since this article came into force in 1996, about 24,000 farms (-30%) and 60,000 jobs in the agricultural sector (-27.5%) have disappeared in Switzerland.
Valentina Hemmeler Maïga, Uniterre.
Die unabhängige bäuerliche Zeitung, February 2015
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