Letter to the editor

Letter to the editor

Thoughts on the counterproposal concerning food security

Not long ago, the morning news reported that farmers are supposed to get three more centimes (!) on every litre of milk and that this increase would not burden consumers! What a topsy-turvy world this is! To be fighting about a couple of centimes in Switzerland, where the majority of the population lives in comfort (sometimes luxury), is shameful. Readily, we‘ll gladly pay more for a litre of Coca Cola (primarily consisting of water and sugar) than for a litre of milk.
Milk is one of the basic foods that a lot of work has gone into and that was made with a deep understanding and connection between nature, man and animal. I value this to the extent of being part of a dairy cooperative myself and volunteering there for four half days during the year. This farm-based cheese dairy is being run contract based, and I’m happy to pay a higher price for the wonderful dairy products. By doing so, farmer and cheesemaker are guaranteed a purchase as well as a fair income.
It is a fact that gradually, smaller and medium sized farming businesses are forced to close because they can no longer sustain themselves.
I’ve grown up in the city and still enjoy living there today. I used to have relatives living in the countryside and was able to see the hardships of everyday farming life – 365 days a year and the family still wasn’t able to make ends meet without generating additional income from sideline jobs. A daughter of those relatives would herself go on to marry a farmer. Aged 50, they had to sell all their cows, because they were unable to come up with the funds necessary to buy a new barn that was up to code. This is a financial and personal catastrophe for farmers who have invested lifeblood and a lot of hard work into their farm and animals.
Expanding the farms and producing more, as proposed by Federal Councillor Johann Schneider-Ammann, is not a solution. I‘d recommend watching the Austrian movie “Bauer unser” (Our farmer) that depicts the situation of farming businesses as it is – in part – present in Switzerland as well. Due to more and more industrialised processes and tasks, farming businesses gradually start to resemble factory-like enterprises. There’s always an incentive to expand and increase production. The market drives down prices and subsequently the farmer is under growing pressure. The joy and satisfaction of the original peasant work is lost.
There doesn’t necessarily need to be market liberalisation (as trade abroad continues anyway), but there needs to be a possibility to produce agricultural goods on a smaller, regional scale in order to ensure food security and food sovereignty. That entails promoting and supporting alternative models, e.g. cooperatives.
Also, it is not about sealing off the market, but about fair trade at home as well as abroad.
My voting recommendation:
No to the counterproposal concerning food security; and, if the other initiatives get to a vote:
Yes to the Fair Food Initiative of the Green Party “For healthy, environmentally friendly and ethically produced food.”
Yes to the Uniterre Initiative: “For food sovereignty. Agriculture concerns us all.”

Sibylle Jagmetti, Zurich

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