Letter to the Editor

Swiss agricultural policy – what next?

In order to find answers to this question that are fit for the future, constitutional lawyer Dr Marianne WŁthrich made extensive contributions in her differentiated analyses in Current Concerns. The last ones in No 31 from 15 December 2017, where she pointed out the risk of giving too much room for interpretation about the Federal Council’s counterproposal to the food security initiative of the Swiss Farmers Association. I allow myself to complete her analyses by noticing that Federal Councillor Schneider-Ammann cannot ensure any more the livelihood of 52,000 farming  if he – in context of the Agricultural Policy 2022 –  reduces the import duties for agricultural products. This for the following reasons:

  1. The Swiss farmers are in majority family businesses, they cultivate  their own farming land. Whether mountain area or valley area, farm and stable form their livelihood, the retirement and future of the family is often associated with part-time employment.
  2. They can only produce food, which is product of their landscape: in the mountain area milk and meat, because there only grows grass; in the valley area fruit, fruits, vegetables, rapeseed oil, milk and meat because of milder climate, more nutritious soil and more rational to cultivate agricultural land.
  3. It is not everywhere that small and medium-sized family businesses can be brought together without loss in large companies, and large-scale niche production is a contradiction in terms!
  4. According to Article 104 of the Federal Constitution Swiss farmers should ensure 50–60% of the nutritional need of  the Swiss population! With regard to animal welfare and food quality they fulfill the highest claims worldwide. This is only possible with a living price-performance ratio.
       If this is disturbed by reduced import duties on cheaply produced food imports, the continued existence of the majority of our farms is threatened!
       Our touristically attractive Swiss landscape will degenerate, landslides will pile up, ski slopes (alpine pastures) will fumble. Public traffic and transit traffic are at risk when street embankments and avalanche defenses are no longer maintained by farmers (forestry workers). The most attractive cultural land of Europe will lose its recreational value for tourism and for urban and agglomeration population!
  5. With the help of the “Fair-Food Initiative” of the “Greens” and the initiative “For food sovereignty” from “Uniterre” and the “Alliance for Food Security” Federal Council and Parliament should bring their agricultural policy back to a realistic course!

Matthias Elmiger, Ebnat-Kappel

(Translation Current Concerns)