Category Archives: organic farming

A farmer reflects: “corporate leviathans threaten the rural economy . . . export expertise not food”

 

James Odgers’s letter to the Financial Times addresses the assumption that all economic growth must be good. He opens:

“Unbridled corporate power is at the heart of an ever-fiercer anger felt by many, and by millennials in particular, who view the growth and influence wielded by large corporations as malignant rather than benign. They place less emphasis on mere profit and more on the need to belong, to be part of a community”.

As a small-scale farmer in the south-west of England he is seeking to establish a sustainable model of farming post-Brexit that allies share farming with mutuality and stand in direct opposition to ever-larger farms selling to the multiple retailers.

He and others similarly placed have been amazed at the lack of political opposition to the proposed tie-up between Asda and Sainsbury’s as the competition authorities seem to be craven when faced with the power of these leviathans of commerce and ruefully reflects:

”The rural economy has been almost wholly destroyed by what is clearly an oligopoly and yet we are told that there is sufficient competition between these vast concerns to meet the needs of consumers”.

In another interview Odgers, from Stream Farm, Broomfield, points out that whilst prices in the supermarkets increased by 50% over a recent period of 7 years, the price at the farm gate rose only 12% and every new supermarket store that opens results in a net loss of 226 full, local livelihoods – mostly small-scale family businesses that have had to be closed – and the local communities have suffered accordingly.

His mission: to establish as many basic farming businesses as possible on the land and hand them on to those who want to farm, perhaps have tried and failed in the past, and to encourage them to earn a livelihood and by helping each other to produce the very best food.  So far 8 businesses have been set up: beef, lamb, chicken, pork, rainbow trout, apple juice, honey and spring water, still and sparkling.  He is keen to start on vines and perhaps crayfish. To read in more detail use this link.

Share farming is a microfinance model in which a farmer (often referred to as the owner) with land and fixed equipment enters into an agreement with another farmer (operator) who provides labour and machinery. The profit from the agreement is split between the two or an alternative compromise is reached. It gives each farmer the opportunity to run their own business and earn a livelihood from their share of gross income and the owner recovers, slowly, the costs of capital invested.

We could feed ourselves in this country and help the poor in other parts of the world if all farming were to be organic, if we took out the profiteering supermarkets, and farmers were paid a fair price for their produce.

  • It need be no more expensive for the consumer – our Dexter beef box is at least £60 cheaper than the equivalent cuts in Waitrose.
  • If we stopped wasting as much as we waste and demanding out-of-season and perfect-looking produce, there would be more food than we need.
  • If there were large numbers of small farmers helping each other as happens at Stream Farm, communities would be enhanced and the countryside would become vibrant and would require many more farmers.
  • And if we stopped pouring onto our land and into our animals chemicals that have no place to be there, we might all be a sight healthier too!

It is expertise that we should export from this tiny island of ours, rather than feeling we have an obligation to feed the world by unsustainable farming practices that are causing an ever-greater environmental deficit.

 

 

 

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Clarification to the mailing list and visitors to the website

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The earlier post was placed as ‘devil’s advocate – the views of Ian Potter – not mine!  We do need to hear such views in order to enter into dialogue.

A Bournville reader commented, “Arguments about veganism need to be treated on their merits irrespective of the interests of producers – compare coal and coal-miners”. He continued: “At random I pulled up this from the web but no doubt one could find others https://nutritionfacts.org/2015/02/17/organic-milk-and-prostate-cancer/

Had I been presenting my own views (predominantly vegetarian) I’d be recommending locally grown, seasonal, organically produced food. Pulled from the web: https://www.nhs.uk/news/food-and-diet/organic-milk-is-healthier-than-conventional-milk-study-says/

A Moseley reader comments on the last paragraph:

The fact is that some farmers need to wake up and smell the coffee and realise how they treat their animals, and how their farm looks to the general public are all important for the image of dairy. 

He writes:

“I was in Devon last week. The state of some of the meat and dairy cattle and the conditions they’re kept in is pretty poor. The rubbish that farmers leave lying around is dreadful: Rusting metal, old barbed wire and wrecks of farm machinery. A walk in Worcestershire had the same results.

“I reckon livestock should have to travel no more than 10 miles by transporter to an abattoir.

“Poultry farming is a scandal. Pig farming, too.

“A high percentage DON’T play the role some claim as stewards of the countryside”.

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Ed: I visited many farms in Lancashire in my youth and found all well-kept. Have standards slumped? More recently I visited a few in Warwickshire. Also good.

 

 

 

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Advice from Ireland: “We must change our ways to make emissions fall and farmers’ incomes rise”

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“The present system is not serving family farmers well. Young people are leaving the land in droves. For the second time in five years Ireland has had to import fodder to feed its animals. Farmers’ incomes are on the floor while everyone else profits from their work. We are overstocking our land and pushing an intensive model that is damaging our soil”.

So writes Eamon Ryan in the Times (left), an Irish Green Party politician who has served as Leader of the Green Party since May 2011 and as Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources from 2007 to 2011. He believes in a green future for Irish farming and rural life and in family farmers as the ‘frontline heroes’ in meeting the great environmental challenges we face.

We must change our ways to make emissions fall and farmers’ incomes rise

Forthcoming changes to the Common Agricultural Policy will allow us to make these reforms and pay farmers properly for doing the right thing. We should start by ensuring that we put a price on the carbon that stays stored in fields, bogs and trees. It is a chance to direct money to the least advantaged parts of our country.

We have an obligation to slow runaway climate change and can face these challenges knowing that the evolutionary leap we need to take will also be the best way to provide for the people of rural Ireland.

Farmers will become experts in planting and maintaining a new national forest, where native trees are grown in a way that allows for natural seeding, extraction and regeneration. It will be full of biodiversity and a great addition to the Wild Atlantic Way. The forest can be a park for locals and visitors alike, far better than the dark and impenetrable coniferous plantations that are clear-felled every 35 years.

Those farmers will also be paid for restoring the quality of our water. By monitoring everything that is done on the land, we can find solutions to the floods and droughts coming our way with climate change.

The prime minister rejected a citizens’ assembly recommendation last week that greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture should be taxed, and the revenue generated be used for climate-friendly farming policies. The governing party. Fine Gael, is all about supporting big business, so it is happy to protect the status quo.

At some point, though, farmers are going to realise that they are not being well represented. The best plan is to go green.

Ryan’s recommendations are relevant even to those who leave the European Union.

 

 

 

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March visitors

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People from six countries visited the site in March.

There were twice as many visitors from the USA as from the next largest, UK

 TOP POSTS IN MARCH WERE RELATED TO THE GROWING TAKE-UP OF ORGANIC FOOD

France has announced that at least half of all food bought by the public sector must be organic or locally produced  

In February, as sales of organic food continue to rise in France and are reaching ‘record levels’ in England, the French Agricultural Minister Stéphane Travert announced the new rules as part of measures to boost the French farming sector, and to improve diets.

Britain’s organic market celebrates sixth year of growth

The Organic Research Centre has shared news of the Soil Association’s 2018 Organic Market Report which reveals that the UK organic market is now worth £2.2 billion, growing 6% in 2017. The market has had six years of steady growth, with organic accounting for 1.5% of the total UK food and drink market.

In 2017, the amount of farmland in conversion to organic rose 22% as farmers responded to the rise in demand for organic produce.

 

 

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Britain’s organic market celebrates sixth year of growth

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The Organic Research Centre has shared news of the Soil Association’s 2018 Organic Market Report which reveals that the UK organic market is now worth £2.2 billion, growing 6% in 2017.

The market has had six years of steady growth, with organic accounting for 1.5% of the total UK food and drink market.

In 2017, the amount of farmland in conversion to organic rose 22% as farmers responded to the rise in demand for organic produce

And with payment windows now open for Countryside Stewardship in England and the Agri-Environment Climate Scheme in Scotland, the amount of farmland being converted to organic is expected to keep rising, particularly in light of the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan which calls for agriculture that supports the natural environment.

Key trends highlighted in the report include:

  • Supermarket sales of organic grew by 4.2% in 2017
  • Independent retailers increased sales of organic by 9.7%, and sales for home delivery, including box schemes, grew by 9.5%
  • Sales in foodservice (which includes catering and restaurants) grew by 10.2%
  • Dairy sales increased by 3.1%, and still have the highest share of the organic food and drink market at nearly 29%
  • Sales of meat, fish and poultry grew by 4.1%
  • Fresh produce, up 6.5%, had the highest value growth, equating to over £20m in sales

Millennials are now said to be the biggest customer group

Adam Wakeley of Organic Farm Foods said: “Organic fruit has been a star performer over the past year, and we’ve certainly seen all of fresh organic produce grow. One reason is down to an evolving consumer profile – millennials are now our biggest customer group, and they show a huge interest in food provenance and health. They understand that having food grown in an environmentally friendly way is a good thing. We believe their attitude is here to stay and will continue to drive growth in the future.”

This year has seen booming sales in independent retail and home delivery. Expanding online ranges and growing interest in box schemes, means that these areas are now growing at a faster rate than supermarket sales and between them account for almost 30% of the organic market.  Logo: http://www.organiccentrewales.org.uk/

For some farmers these alternative routes to market, coupled with the increased consumer interest in food provenance, have been crucial to their success.

A press release on 15 March 2018 records that the English Organic Forum has written to Environment Secretary of State Michael Gove as he prepared to address the Prosperity UK Green Brexit Conference in London on Thursday 15th March.

The English Organic Forum represents organic organisations and businesses including: Abacus Agriculture Ltd.; Biodynamic Association; EcoS Consultancy; Future Sustainability; Garden Organic; Institute of Organic Training and Advice; Land Workers’ Alliance; Organic Arable; Organic Farmers and Growers CIC; Organic Food Federation; Organic Growers Alliance; Organic Milk Suppliers Co-operative; Organic Research Centre; Organic Trade Board; Soil Association; Triodos Bank; SA Cert Ltd.; UK Organic Certifiers Group.

Header from:   http://www.sopa.org.uk/

The English Organic Forum letter emphasises that the UK is lagging behind its major European competitors in the development of organic food and farming. It sets out why stronger support for organic farming would be a significant opportunity to deliver both economic and environmental benefits, consistent with government policy aspirations.

Nic Lampkin, chair of the forum and director of the Organic Research Centre, says: “The UK needs to up its game and focus more on organic food and farming if it is to reach its ambition for a new agricultural policy that delivers public goods as well as economic benefits. Organic food and farming is closely aligned to the Government’s key aspiration of a ‘Green Brexit’. We would like to have seen more focus on organic, with all its benefits, in the consultation proposals on future food and farming policy.”

Adrian Blackshaw, chair of the Organic Trade Board says: “Many EU countries have seen 20% market growth rates in recent years, with market shares approaching 10% of food sales. Clearly we have some catching up to do just to satisfy growing consumer demand.” Organic farming accounts for 6.7% of farmland under production in the EU (UK 3%). Italy, Sweden and Austria are between 15-20%. President Macron has declared a target of 22% of French farmland to be organic by 2022 and the German government coalition agreement includes a target of 20% of German agriculture to be organic by 2030.

Roger Kerr, CEO of Organic Farmers and Growers, was surprised that organic wasn’t more widely identified in the consultation documents. Organic production is backed up by a legal regulation with annual inspections, certification and verification. With this robust approach Defra can have confidence in organic food and farming delivering both economic benefits and public goods for all.”

The 2017 Out to Lunch report found that organic food had doubled on the high street, with twelve out of the twenty-five restaurant chains surveyed using organic ingredients – up from six in the previous report.

Helen Browning, Soil Association chief executive, said: “Trust is something that’s increasingly important: people want to understand where their food has come from, how it has been produced, and more and more shoppers want to buy local and British. The customer is increasingly interested in the provenance and traceability of their food, and this is an area organic can really deliver on . . . And the growing recognition of organic food and drink in restaurants and cafes creates opportunities for organic farmers to access new markets here at home.”

 

 

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France has announced that at least half of all food bought by the public sector must be organic or locally produced

In February, as sales of organic food continue to rise in France and are reachingrecord levels’ in England, the French Agricultural Minister Stéphane Travert announced the new rules as part of measures to boost the French farming sector, and to improve diets.

Travert (left) said that as France is showing, public procurement can be a “powerful tool” for supporting local and organic farmers and can make an “important contribution” towards improved public health. Public procurement approaches will also support SME producers to gain access to markets, in line with the commitments made in the Industrial Strategy.

The Soil Association’s Policy and Campaigns Manager Rob Percival (right) said the initiative highlights the “power of public procurement” to support better farming practices and improve diets.

He continued: “More ambitious action from Government could further stimulate demand for British, local, and higher quality produce. Michael Gove already has the tools he needs at his fingertips. He must move now to implement DEFRA’s Balanced Scorecard approach across the whole public sector including education and health, while requiring public procurement decisions to place a weighting of at least 60% on quality relative to cost.”

“Gove must seize the opportunity presented by Brexit to implement a procurement policy at least as ambitious as his French counterpart,” Mr Percival added.

 

 

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Absolute power comes from absolute control of food – Devinder Sharma

 This painting is by the French artist Michel Granger.

Is this what we have done to our planet?  

Devinder Sharma shares his interview with French journalist Catherine Andre, posted on January 2018 in the Bhoomi Network emagazine, which shares holistic views on ecological and man-made realities.

A summary

The industrial food production model, developed in the United States and Europe since WWII, and lately widely adopted in South America, is unsustainable and is destroying both the planet and its inhabitants…

The large high-input, high-yield monocultures, with heavy farm machinery running on subsidised fossil-fuel and laced with potent agro-chemicals have not only depleted soil health, but polluted oceans, rivers as well as ground water and has massively contaminated the environment. The decimation of plant and animal biodiversity, and the loss of accompanying ‘traditional knowledge’ has in turn impoverished communities that have lived in synergy with the bio-resources.

The emergence of commodity value chains and the way international trade regimes have been designed, means that developing country farmers have been forced to de-skill, abandon agriculture and migrate to the cities in search of menial jobs. Still worse, the forceful opening of the developing country’s trade barriers and inundation with highly subsidised food supplies, has already turned 105 of the 149-odd Third World Countries into food importing countries.

The best way to address hunger for any developing country is to have production by the masses, and not production for the masses

Producing food and carrying it all the way to different parts of the world has created ‘food miles’ which exacerbates global warming. And ever since the global food crisis in 2007/8, multinational companies are now in a race to grab farm land. Studies have shown that an area equivalent to the cultivable area in China and India has already been purchased or leased in Africa, South America and Asia. But in my understanding the best way to address hunger for any developing country is to have production by the masses, and not production for the masses. Small farmers need to be gainfully employed, in the sense that farming is turned into a profitable enterprise. Political stability apart, the region needs investment in livelihood options which means primarily focusing on restoring agriculture, livestock and the rural infrastructure.

The revival of traditional agriculture, depending on water availability and providing adequate farm prices and market infrastructure is immediately required

At the World Economic Forum 2011 at Davos, business leaders from 17 private companies – including Archer Daniels Midland, BASF, Bunge Limited, Cargill, Coca-Cola, DuPont, General Mills, Kraft Foods, Metro AG, Monsanto Company, Nestlé, PepsiCo, SABMiller, Syngenta, Unilever, Wal-Mart, and Yara International -announced the launch of a global initiative — New Vision for Agriculture — that sets ambitious targets for increasing food production by 20 percent, decreasing greenhouse gas emissions per ton by 20 percent, and reducing rural poverty by 20 percent every decade.

While all the targets seem very attractive, the fact remains that world does not need to produce more. As per the USDA report, the world already produces food for 13.5 billion people, which means for double the existing population. Roughly 40 per cent of the food produced globally is wasted every year. The challenge should therefore be to drastically reduce food wastage rather than to raise production thereby causing more environmental depletion.

From an era of food self-sufficiency, India is gradually moving to be an economy of dependence. Successive governments have pushed in policies that promotes privatization of natural resources, takeover of farm land, integrating Indian agriculture with the global economy, and moving farmers out of agriculture – in essence the hallmark of the neo-liberal economic growth model. The result is clearly visible. The millions displaced will constitute the new class of migrants – agricultural refugees. Twice the number of people that are expected to be displaced by global warming worldwide will be pushed out of agriculture in India.

According to Down to Earth magazine, the food import bill for 2015-16 stood at Indian Rs 1,402,680,000,000.

This was three times more than the annual budget for agriculture. Successive governments have actually been following a policy prescription that was laid out by the World Bank as early as in 1996.

Just like the controversial austerity measures in the European Union, the thrust of the economic policies is to cut down on social security, public investment in food, agriculture, health and education. International Financial institutions, credit rating agencies and the multilateral trading organisations have all been pushing for fiscal reforms. This is accompanied with increasing privatisation of natural resources, encouraging corporate agriculture and pushing for public-private partnership projects.

What India needs is a production system by the masses, not production for the masses.

For a country like India, which has 600 million people directly or indirectly engaged in agriculture, food production has the potential to revitalise the Indian economy, be a pivot of inclusive growth.

As I have often said: “Absolute power comes from absolute control of food” So far, the food chain is in the hands of three dominant players. The technology companies, the trading companies and the supermarkets. I see a convergence taking place in the years to come. Three players are swiftly merging into one – the future food factories. Many universities in US/EU have come up with designs for the future food factory, but the most worrying part is that the World Bank is considering how to subsidise it. That will be the end of farmers then.

Whether in Argentina and Mexico, a circle of poison escalated by the application of chemical pesticides, including the controversial glyphosate pesticide, has caused extensive suffering

In India aerial spraying of Endosulfan in cashew plantations in Kerala had for some decades inflicted innumerable diseases/disorders among the people. Lately a train carrying cancer patients from the food bowl of Punjab, engaged in high-intensive agriculture, to neighbouring Rajasthan has come to be known as ‘Cancer Train’.

With six companies controlling pesticides production, and the same companies also claiming intellectual propriety over ‘improved’ seeds, the control over agriculture has become complete. The Poison papers, prepared by the BioScience Resource Project, is a compilation of 20,000 documents that expose decades of collusion between the pesticides industry and regulators. But still, the international community is unwilling to work towards a pesticide-free world.

If consumers demand pesticide and GM-free food, the retail trade will provide it.

Once the demand for pesticide-free food picks up, I see no reason why farmers will not increasingly come under pressure to cultivate without the application of pesticides and chemical fertiliser. The sale of organic food in recent years has picked up enormously in America, Europe and India. I see this as a major development which can shape the future of agriculture, move towards sustainable farming systems.

Consumers rejecting genetically-modified food is primarily the reason why Europe has stood as a wall against the import of GM food from America. European governments are refusing to give way to pressure to allow for GM foods because of public opposition.

The challenge therefore lies in educating consumers, creating wider awareness about their food habits. Once they realise that they are responsible for the environmental damage the world is faced with, they will change. At a time when the world is in the midst of jobless growth, only a sustainably vibrant agriculture can provide livelihoods, save environment, reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions, and boost the global economy.

Read the full article here: https://chssachetan.wordpress.com/absolute-power-comes-from-absolute-control-of-food-devinder-sharma

 

 

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