Friday, November 19, 2010

EconomicsNorthAmerica: Food Commodities: Feeding the world, supporting family farms in USA, Canada

I'm very much in favour of the movement to ensure marginal farmers in need-to-develop-economically countries, ensure they get a fair pr+c for their food commodities (often just one from any given farm or marginal farming area, as in the showcase case of coffee).  This movement is spearheaded by FairFood, an organization partnering with the Interchurch organization for development cooperation (known by its Dutch acronym ICCO).  Which in turn is a member of ActAlliance (ACT = Action by Churches Together) which has just set up its first office, its international headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya.  FoodFair:

Food Focus:  Wheat Woes

Fairfood’s latest sector report draws attention to the woes plaguing the world's wheat production sector. Amongst the many problems facing this sector, the most prominent ones concern environmental issues and agricultural subsidies handed out by the European and American governments. You could read more about this and other fairness issues in the food and beverage sector on our website.

Click on the t+mstamp below to Read more ....


Some of the problems that may arise when producing wheat are environmental.  The most common ones being unsustainable use of water caused by overuse of scarce water resources and unsustainable use of cultivated land that is due to soil depletion. Most countries strive to grow their own wheat, obviously at the highest possible yield. At times this means that wheat is grown in unsuitable environments, which have insufficient water for irrigation. Along with that, strong pesticides and fertilizers are used – these can lead to soil degradation.  Problems deriving from high government subsidies also affect the sector. Government subsidies handed out to farmers in the US and Europe have been known to distort world wheat markets. Because of such government support, it is more attractive for farmers to produce wheat, and less so to switch to another crop. This means more is produced than would be the case without said subsidies. With U.S. being a major wheat producer and the world’s leading wheat exporter, its supply to the world market can influence world wheat prices. The excess wheat is dumped onto the world market, which then may lead to local farmers having difficulties in selling their produce. Another issue that has an effect on the sector is abuse of dominant position. There are many producers of wheat at the beginning of the wheat chain, and many bakers and retailers at the end, but only a few large companies in the middle. These companies are able to dictate the prices to both the farmers and the consumers – leading to a supply chain bottleneck.

I find the two paragraphs above from the FairFood webs+t to be a less than fair analysis of the actual situation that the USA faces.  First, there is no room in the analysis for the national-security reasons that lead some countries, including Canada and the USA, to encourage wheat growers.  This policy does in significant measure lead to surpluses of farm commodities most years, some commodities being perishalbles.  Dry wheat in silos can usually wait until the slowdown arrives when the in-factory processing that transforms wheat grains into flour for home and commercial baking looks around for new supply, finding it at hand in the silos.  Wheat that is grown in these countries, is stored in these countries, and is processed in these both of these countries, each individually independent in its food supply in regard to wheat, a staple in these countries.   These countries do not want to become dependent on the international market for wheat, which coud (considering various scenarios) lead to huge overpr+cing of food and/or a potential leverage for blackmail of Canada or America in international politics.  You subidize too much, so we won't let you buy our grains, our rice, our bananas, our ginseng.   

Abu Graib was used to blackmail America.   When the l+t of day at last illuminated the dreadful shenanigans there, it also proved that the American monitored prison to be precisely such a case, the vile actions of some military guards against the Iraqi prisoners nevertheless do not abrogate, do not set as+d the need of the USA to ensure the availablilty of sufficient wheat and other food commodites in sufficient supply to feed America's soldiers, citizens and everyone resident in the country.  

Take the case of the USA in regard to oil. We are pressured by the Oil-Producing States (OPEC) to behave on other matters, l+k the cawz of the anti-Israel in the Palestinian territory.
Also, consider how the wheat surplus (backed up  by govt subsidies in the USA and Canada*) makes the two countries independent for their supply of this basic foodstuff, a food-source typical of cold climate states (Canada and many USA states, but not all; as some states alternatively coud rely, like Southern China and other near-tropical zones like I woud imagine Louisiana, rely more on rice).  Surely, that's not evil in itself.  And people who want change, as does FairFood and refWrite, need to consider carefully and wei the alternatives they are putting before our populations, shoud we face some yet-unforeseen circumstances.  FoodFair is asking us to become the Foolish Virgins who didn't prepare for the future, didn't acknowlege the range of contingencies.

Third, the surpluses in wheat, subsid+zd by our North American govts, prove invaluable when there's serious mass disasters in economically-developing and -stagnant counties, as in the recent mass floods in Pakistan, which have much to do with the failure of the wealthy in that country and of the govt that exists at the suffrance of those of extreme wealth, the govt seems to exist to prepare, even restructure and reconfigure numerous factors of preparedness and economy-readiness to pursue massive cleanup, maintenance, readiness to meet emergencies, long term envisioning and planning improvements to infrastructure, reservoirs, irriagations, and waste water disposal in maximally-enviro moral precept -- clean and recycle, clean air and recycle, clean water and recycle, clean earth and soil,  and recycle; clean f+r and recycle -- building des+n and materials, etc.)  The failures of the Pakistan state and the country's wealthy overlords on their huge plantations, these failures, this array of failures have to do with carelessness in not taxing the wealthy Uebers [├╝bermannen -- Nietszche], ja?  In this maelstrom, why 
not subsidize small-farm owners to raise a few precious commodities for feeding the nation in t+mz of crisis. With lots of surplus to export, in really good years.  And meanwhile in the meant+m the practice of innovation, invention, creativity even in business management has continued on, even exploding-open a cornucopia from t+m to t+m

In conjunction with that observation, did no one at FairFood notice that the North American surplus proved a positive strategic value when millions of tonnes of subsid+zed surplus foodgrains were routed to the starving victims in Pakistan.  And many Canadian farmers were in on this project, some working as volunteers regarding the shipment, delivery, and distribution of the food, including wheat, to an Interfaith agency of Pakistani Christians and Muslims for the final steps of distribution.

FoodFair can't just erase such benefits to all in order to protect its inadequate model, which seems more des+nd to use as a weapon to further defame North Americans generally than to solve the problems of the wheat sector of the world's food supply.

I woud suggest that FairFood do what it advertizes itself as doing, and being best at it, to boot -- contacting the accessible portion of the suppliers and beginning dialogues for mutually learning and problem-solving.  In Canada, the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario woud be a good place to start.  This November 17th, CFFO held an amazing convention on the theme "Feeding the World, while supporting family farms."  I suggest that sort of move by FairFood becawz, wh+l I doubt there is a large proportion of wheat growners in CFFO's large membership, the problems of primary concern to FoodFair are well understood by CFFO's leadership, and much of its membership too.  In the process, FoodFair m+t also learn something about family-farming in North America, where the struggle is how to compete with the large industrial farming operations ("agri-business") that buy up the land and practice h+dosage chemical farming and w+dspread genetic modification of seeds of the various food species of plants. CFFO tries to assist farm families which have  a(n often multigenerational) vocation to care for the land, the commodities produced, the consumers around the world, the larger environment, and the family income -- all at the same t+m.  More than that, there's Canadian Foodgrains Bank, largely created by Mennonites but now serving a broader-based constituency.  The Canadian govt uses this agency as a means to get food relief to the nations of the world, when disasters str+k.  These two Canadian groups seem to be well connected with faith-based Americans, and work with the binational Christian Reformed World Relief Commission (CRWC) which brawt many Americans into play in serving as the lead agency for the Western donors to relief of flood victims in Pakistan (not only regarding food but also regarding tents, medical kits, and numerous other physical-equipment needs that Americans robustly joined in supplying, shipping, and distributing).

I think working thru these connections, with patience and explanatory power, FoodFair coud arm also the Americans with the concepts -- not to abolish subsidies pot valiantly, but -- to solve problems with alternative solutions that many American Christians in the family-farm vocation coud contribute to formulating, spreading, and reworking to redirect legislative directions.

This coud be a move toward an inner reformation of farming and feeding the world's ppopulation everywhere.

-- EconoMix

* "In Canada -- Measures Relating  to Exports of Wheat and Treatment of Imported Grain ..., the United States challenged the entire grain marketing, promoting and exporting scheme set up by the Canadian government."   This argument is a  critique in which the USA alleges "the WTO-illegality of the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB)."  Both sources are to be found in Michael J. Trebilcock and Robert Howse, The Regulation of International Trade (3rd ed, 2005, 1st ed 1995; page 347).

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