Why does an “old man” (82 years old) like me write this call for resistance?
The reason is that I am surrounded by the decision makers’ blindness to the future, or respectively, their future-orientated criminality, and by the “silence of the sheep”.1 Those who are not sheep farmers can hardly understand this metaphor taken from the Bible2. Unlike all other livestock species, sheep yield without bleating or crying desperately, when they are led to the slaughterhouse.
The smallholder farmers with their multi-faceted economy are being ruthlessly sacrificed to the largely-capitalised global market rulers, who maximise their profits in the short term and invest their growing financial assets in buying ever more land. And always an inviolable, immutable and wealth-increasing “world market” is spoken of as if it were a naturally given form of economic commerce.
The most recent of these actions which are criminal against our future is the EU Commission’s waving through the CETA agreement with Canada and its toothless treatment by the European Parliament and national governments and parliaments. In the case of the latter, I deliberately do not use the word “representation of the people” because the mainstream major interests are catered for, clearly against the will of the majority of the population.
At present, on average six small farmers give up in Austria every day. This is presented as a natural “structural adjustment”. But in fact, the food security of our children and grandchildren is being sold.
Why I dare say this: All high cultures with a scarcity of cultivation areas have developed horticultural-diverse production patterns, and we also made sure in this way that the nutrition supply would remain intact even in a situation of disturbed supplies and deliveries. I experienced the Second World War and the time of need firsthand and consciously as a child. Our self-sufficient farmers with their diverse methods and results of producing food were able to ensure an emergency supply. We were then still able to send our children to the countryside to gain weight, and “hoarders” might come and ask for a bit of bread, some eggs or some meat and vegetables.
At that time, small farmers were able to intensify their gardening. The “house-fields” of my host parents were large labour-intensive gardens with the highest level of productivity. Now most of the peasants with their “streamlined” farms will find themselves distressed in times of crisis.3
If we dare to use looking back from the future as a method for the setting of goals, then we will see a storm brewing in the overall policy and in the agricultural policy embedded in it. We will soon be sinking below 2,000 square metres of arable land per inhabitant of the earth. The fossil resources and phosphate reserves which made possible the current hyped-up “modern” production systems are coming to an end, and the craftsmanship of managing difficult terrains and barren soils is being lost because of the “elimination” of small farmers. The loss of that ecological diversity (biodiversity) which is the prerequisite for system stability, of site-adapted management and intensification in an emergency goes hand in hand with the economic world events that have been imposed on us. Currently, about 75% of the food comes from 12 plant and 5 animal species. Only about 200 of around 10,000 edible plant species are used.
All this is said to be justified by the need to maximise labour productivity and consumer benefits. Thereby it is factored out that this short-term thinking is at the expense of future food security. The central economic-ecological question (How can I sustainably achieve an optimal net harvest of solar energy in human-usable form?) is not asked.
In addition, the state and supranational (EU) budgets are suffering in the current fiscal policy situation, so that the over-economic benefits of farmers and the safeguarding of their livelihood by means of a counter-current base amount can no longer be funded.4
There is also a trade policy that treats agriculture “like any other industry” - an inadmissible procedure, as was already pointed out by F. Graham in 1923.5
“Moreover, the accumulation of capital in the hands of only a few, who are aware of the end of the game in the financial markets, leads to the fact that they flee into tangible assets.” The international and local buying-up of land by private big-business-owners and by sovereign wealth funds is running at full speed (see especially China, land grabbing). The result is remote agricultural management without contact with soil, crop or animal, as well as short-term profit maximisation goals.
The renaming of the “Ministry of Agriculture” in Austria into a Federal Ministry for Sustainability and Tourism shows how non-knowledgable is the current policy. For the young Federal Chancellor and the young Minister, food sovereignty is no longer a central issue. The younger generation sees the abundant inflow of food as a matter of course, and can no longer imagine the “case of failure of supplies”. The same applies to the collapse of the IT systems.
The current supply systems, however, are highly vulnerable. Trouble may arise through natural events, through sabotage and terrorism as well as through wars. Parallel to the armed attack, every “modern” aggression begins with the elimination of the IT, energy and traffic systems. This means that we are thrown back on the regional emergency supply. Regional food sovereignty should therefore be a top target for overall and agricultural policies. What do we therefore urgently need?
1) Local food security must be raised to the level of an indispensable human right. Compared to this all other interests have to be put aside. This applies in particular to trade policy.
The principle of “national treatment” included in all WTO agreements (GATT, GATS, TRIPS) says that you may not treat a foreigner “worse” than a resident. Conversely, you do not have to treat a foreigner “better” than a resident.
Duty-free access should therefore only be granted if the performance (goods or services) has been created under comparable environmental and social standards as those that apply and are practiced in the country of destination (country of destination principle).
Only under this fundamental protection can the detailed measures with which agricultural policy is currently operating be successful. Without the necessary trade policy protection, the various subsidies are nothing more than delaying “euthanasia assistance”.
2) In financial policy, the revenue-side recovery of budgets is a precondition for countermeasures, as long as trade policy is not flanked accordingly, as well as a condition for compensation of agricultural over-achievement (in particular cultural landscapes which create well-being, water conservation, conservation of ecological diversity). In my Manifesto, which has already been translated into eight languages (available on the Internet under “Wiener Wende”), I have outlined the ways of doing so (in particular capital sales tax and an internet duty).
3) The overall policy must be based on the system principles of the biosphere prescribed by nature. This means:
4) The peasantry as a minority must form credible and trusting alliances with all other social groups - especially the workers, the consumers in general and the conservationists and environmentalists.
If we fail to achieve the widespread “insurrection of the sheep” in favour of these reversals, then the slow dying of small-scale and location-oriented peasants is certain, and this will “rationalise away” our food security in the event of crisis and even our children’s food security, which I call future-orientated criminality.
Finally, let me add a note on securing the management of land yielding only a marginal return, which we will need for future local food security. This can be achieved through compensation paid in inverse proportion to the soil’s creditworthiness and proportionally to the climatic and relief-related complications. This handicap-compensation for the disadvantaged would also have a double advantage:
a) In times of scarcity (and these will unfortunately come), the market price would not depend on the higher costs in the marginal revenue regions (marginal costs). This is a long-term cost advantage for consumers.
b) The landowners in the favourable positions would not gain a socially undesirable differential rent – that is, more social justice as a precondition for peaceful development. •
1 In 2006, I wrote the bestseller “Globales Schafe scheren (Global Sheep Shearing)” and called for rising up, but the “sheep” continue to let themselves be led silently to the slaughterhouse by the “establishment”.
2 Isaiah 53: 7: “He was mistreated, and he bowed down; he did not open his mouth like the lamb being led to the slaughter, and like a sheep silenced by his jacks, he did not open his mouth.”
3 Josef Heringer therefore coined the phrase: “Either the world becomes a garden or it becomes a battlefield.”
4 In connection with this, see R. Keller and N. Backhaus, “Zentrale Landschaftsleistungen erkennen und in Politik und Praxis stärken – Erkenntnisse eines transdisziplinären Forschungsprojekts in der Schweiz. (Recognising Central Landscape Achievements and Strengthening Them in Politics and Practice – Findings from a transdisciplinary research project in Switzerland)”. In: Naturschutz und Landschaftsplanung (Protection of Nature and Landscape Planning) 50 (3), 2018, 084 – 089, ISSN 0940 – 6808
5 See also my book “The WTO, Agriculture and Sustainable Development”, Greenleaf Publishing 2002
(Translation Current Concerns)
Heinrich Wohlmeyer was born in St. Pölten, Lower Austria, in 1936. He studied in Vienna, London and the US. He is an Austrian industrial and research manager as well as a regional developer and was active in industrial and regional development for over 20 years. He was one of the first to initiate sustainable concepts and created the Austrian Union of Agricultural and Nutritional Scientific Research and the Austrian Society for Biotechnology. Heinrich Wohlmeyer taught at the Technical University in Vienna and at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna. He initiated the Austrian legislation for balancing expenditure and is the author of countless trade articles, among which focus on CETA-, TISA-, and TTIP- agreements. Today Wohlmeyer operates a mountain farm in Lilienfeld (Austria). Wohlmeyer is married, has three daughters and five grandchildren. His books include: The WTO, Agriculture and Sustainable Development (2002); “Globales Schafe Scheren – Gegen die Politik des Niedergangs (2006) (Global Sheep Shearing – Against the Politics of Defeat)”; “Empörung in Europa – Wege aus der Krise (2012) (Outrage in Europe – Ways out of the Crisis)”.
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