This a very good article and damn disturbing.
Our farmers are being run off their farms, health care is quickly becoming a disaster and our education system sucks.
This country belongs to us – not a bunch of two bit, lying, corporate ass kissing politicians.
Either we wake up and stand up or we will all choke on our apathy.
Around the world, farm income is plummeting, pushing farmers off the land and into destitution. At the very same time, soaring food prices are putting tens of millions onto starvation diets.
Welcome to the bizarre world of capitalist agriculture, where the drive to boost profits of giant transnational corporations is imperiling the production of our means of survival.
Suzanne Weiss and I sought insight into this crisis by talking to farmers who live close to us — in Grey County, 200 kilometers north-west of Toronto. We had been invited there to report on farming in Venezuela to the local unit of the National Farmers Union. Our hosts took time to give us an education in Grey County agricultural economics.
“What is the one single measure that would do the most to help farmers in Ontario?” I asked Rae MacIntyre, president of the Grey County local of the National Farmers Union (NFU).
“Open up food markets to local producers,” he replied. “That would transform the situation.”
MacIntyre’s stress on “local food” reveals how much ground has been lost by Grey County’s 160 NFU members — and their 50,000 farmer colleagues across Ontario — during recent decades of big-business attacks on farmers and degradation of the food system. The challenge before farmers is no longer merely low prices for farm products. They are now almost entirely excluded from grocery-store shelves.
Check out your local supermarket: almost every food product has traveled 3,000 kilometers or more to reach the store.
But more is at stake. Farmers are working people, exploited by big-business profiteering. Despite the supposed advantages of large-scale farming, Canada has very few capitalist factory-farms worked by hired labour. The great majority of operations are “family farms,” where family members do most or all of the work.
Some working farmers employ seasonal labourers under the government’s oppressive migrant-labour programs. Defense of these workers must be a top priority of the labour movement as a whole. But the primary blame for this shameful system falls on the government that designed it, and the capitalist market that requires it.
Farmers are self-employed and must get by on what their products fetch on a hostile market. Many farmers have been subjugated by onerous contracts with giant corporate customers. They are exploited by big-business suppliers, buyers, and banks just as workers at General Motors or Wal-Mart are.
The last two decades of cutbacks, layoffs, and concession contracts, which wage workers know as “neo-liberalism,” hit farmers with extra severity. In that time, 25% of Canada’s farms disappeared.
‘No more buying local’
Our Grey County hosts, mostly beef and lamb producers, told us that most of their potential corporate customers had stopped buying from local producers, seeking to cut costs through giant contracts with foreign suppliers. Shawn, who runs a sheep farm, had just lost his marketing contract with a grocery chain that was cutting out local producers. Another NFU member had lost his contract for pumpkins. The buyer told him frankly: “No more buying local.”
Jon Radojkovic, a Grey County grower of shiitake mushrooms told us he has given up trying to sell them to Toronto distributors. Instead, he finds his customers through a local bartering network.
Like most Grey County farmers, Rae MacIntyre raises beef. Not long ago, “there was a slaughterhouse in every county,” he says. That’s all gone now; the only significant purchaser is the corporate goliath, Cargill, which has an abattoir in Guelph, MacIntyre says. Most Ontario beef is sold into the U.S. for whatever it will bring, and these days that’s next to nothing.
Grey County used to be a major supplier of apples. Now few apples are sold, MacIntyre says. “Juice apples … are often composted or used for animal feed.” Many of the apples we see in stores are flown in from China. The same applies to apple juice and apple sauce, despite the misleading “made in Canada” labels on the packaging.
“Many good farmers have given up,” says Radojkovic. “They were proud and happy; now they have lost hope — killed by low prices.”
Read the full article at Dandelion Salad