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The Forum > Article Comments > The rise and rise of agribusiness > Comments

The rise and rise of agribusiness : Comments

By Evaggelos Vallianatos, published 7/1/2009

In the US, agricultural universities cater for big agribusiness at the expense of fostering democratic, family farming.

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As a boy during 1932 in my last year at school I eagerly watched defiant farmers, some with rifles, organising the picketing of the wheat receivals, which finally led to smaller farmers controlling their own markets all over Australia - resulting in the Single Desk.

But there were also signs on the odd covered van, with Grow more Wheat tacked to the wooden sides, which meant that the more gentry richer farmers further south were for the PPA, and backed by Big Biz, while the cockies in the north of the Dalwallinu district though newer and mostly ex-miners were prepared to back the Farmer's Union, and hold their grain for a better and fairer price as was the way of smaller and poorer cockies all over Australia.

It was also after WW2 that we were contented enough under Keynesian economics, which had not only protected the workers but also the small cockies till capitalistic greed again came in with district bank Johnies in the late 1970s agreeing with the term Get Big or Get Out.

Now such greed has got us in trouble once again, with nary a one able to give us the right answer.

Thus - Will we ever Learn, seems the appropriate finale.

Sad Cheers - BB.
Posted by bushbred, Wednesday, 7 January 2009 12:55:00 PM
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I'm not sure what this has to do with 'Greek' affairs but if it is true I am not surprised.

American capitalist philosophy has a number of flaws at their base. One is that America has through falsely linked efficiency (good) with big. This aggregation mentality is presented as being the panacea of all things. I would simply ask for whom... There is no such a thing as a free lunch and everything has its costs. The current state of the corporate domination is akin to a lemming lead over the precipice is clear. Evidence clearly shows that Corporations tend to distort the markets by eliminating through various means to illuminate competition for their (personal) benefits to becoming gatekeepers and therefore key exploiters (profiteers). A logical extension would be that eventually farmers will be contractual serfs to those corporations, in marketing terms ‘a captive market’.

They tend to use many legal but morally dubious methods to achieve their ends this case is yet one more example.

The tragedy is that this focus on big agriculture is being foisted on a world that is unable to make informed choices by diminishing viable options.
This concentration will make the inevitable disasters all that more catastrophic and unrecoverable. Environment is one of the areas that will suffer.
Subsistence or family farmers once hooked can't sustain a hit or stand up to the Corporation bully boy tactics.
In fact Australia is a recipient of this deliberate limiting of choice.
I don’t particularly fear GM but I do fear the corporations clear abuses and manipulations of the system. Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Posted by examinator, Wednesday, 7 January 2009 1:11:44 PM
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This article was written to focus on American agriculture, but
I am in no doubt that corporate farming will be the future in
Western Australia too.

Corporate farming has a number of distinct advantages, such
as cheap super fund capital, which is not readily available
to family farmers.

In fact the sums involved in financing broadscale agriculture
are now so large, that family farmers will struggle to compete.

Corporate farming has another advantage. They have the economic
power to stand up to such standover merchants as the WA meat
processing industry, something which family farmers seem
unable to tackle.

Companies like Wellard Rural Exports are now buying up top
farms, but they have no need to accept prices paid by
companies like Fletcher or Wammco, which have a bit of
a monopoly in WA. Wellards can export their livestock anywhere,
on their company owned boats. They don't need to put up with
the nonsense called the meat processing industry.

To some extent, family farmers have themselves to blame.
They are divided, as all are busy running farms, with the
tyranny of distance being a problem.

I have long suggested that the internet should be a tool
used by farmers to unite and communicate. But some of
these fellas are simply too old to adjust to a changing

I'm happy to see that Bushbred is an exception in this case!
Posted by Yabby, Wednesday, 7 January 2009 1:21:41 PM
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The Land Grant Universities were set up by the Morrill Act of 1861. The Universities were mandated to: “…where the leading object shall be, without excluding other scientific and classical studies, and including military tactics, to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts, in such manner as the legislatures of the States may respectively prescribe, in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life” Not to preserve ‘democratic farming’ (whatever that is) or for the benefit of family farms.

So Vallianatos starts off wrong and then complains because the Universities don’t have courses in his pet subjects. The LGU mostly don’t have full courses in organic agriculture because there is no call for them among students. Organic agriculture is covered in the normal agricultural program, along with a host of other topics in many schools. Vallianatos creates a host of strawmen to justify an ideological rant.

The real problem in US agriculture is the buying up of land by absentee landlords and corporations who have no real interest in long term management of the resource.
Posted by Agronomist, Wednesday, 7 January 2009 4:22:50 PM
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Thanks for the compliment, Yabby, yet I must say although I am still a Guardian for our company with my grandkids doing a great job with a top harvest over 23,000 acres.

However, must say as a sportsman and only a top specialist during WW2,mostly owing to my rough bush outlook.

Lucky to grow up in Buntine, a thriving little railway town with a host of railwy workers, Aussie rules played by farmers and workers on Saturday with Pommy soccer on Sundays, most same bodies performing in both sports - including Swedes and Norwegians having jumped off wheat and cargo ships.

As we got older we played bowls in the slack times as the younger generations took over.

Most sporty types were also the ones seeking to preserve the family farms with Buntine and Latham to the north having the best sportsman as well as probably the best boozers.

However, we knew so very much about over-large farming as in the Wubin-Buntine area we also had Gus Liebe, with 30, 000 acres east of Wubin and later 70, 000 acres east of Maya-Latham called Waddi Forest. Liebe harvsted initially over 25,000 acres with 40 workers and 20 horse teams.

We thus ived with the big and small, admiring Liebe who was also an architect.

And after WW2 it is interesting that not many of us ex-soldiers wanted to get over-big, satisfied to just get along making sure we backed our district sports as well as the Cockies Unions.

But of course in the more recent years, the greed to get big has really set in, with Leo Nicoletti this year harvesting over 100,000 hectares.

Trying to beat the Americans I guess, but with over-modern transport doing away with the old farming family friendships.

Have written a series on our WA called A Land in Need, predicting many of the problems happening in the bush right now.

Cheers, BB, Buntine, WA.
Posted by bushbred, Wednesday, 7 January 2009 6:54:45 PM
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I met a Syrian guy once who told me that in Syria one quarter of his monthly salary went to buy bread.

The reason we in the west do not have that problem is because the much greater capitalization of agriculture means we can produce a lot more food with the same amount of resources. This means we have money left over to buy other stuff we want too. It means we can satisfy much more of our wants with the same amount of work.

No-one has a gun at their his forcing him to buy the products of big agricultural businesses. The reason they do is because people in general want products that are cheaper rather than dearer. They are free to choose to pay more for the produce of family or organic farms.

Those who complain about the “greed” driving the whole system of agribusiness don’t seem to reflect on their own behaviour in preferring butter for $1.03 rather than $1.48. The producers are not to blame for serving the customers with what they want; and in any event, those who don’t, go broke.

Of course every producer would like to get more for his product, and regards himself as a “price taker, not a price maker”. However he can achieve the same effect as having more income, by being able to buy goods cheaper in his capacity as a consumer.

It is our sovereignty over production by being free to choose in our capacity as consumers, not the subsidization of us in our capacity as producers, which makes our society better off.

The logical conclusion of viewing the matter through the lens of the producer, is to engineer a society of protected guilds, each using legal privileges to deny the consumer a free choice, which make us as a society poorer.

Of course, why should everyone be forced to subsidise the training needs of big corporations? This is an argument against government funding either side of the issue, not in favour of government funding of a Thoreauian fantasy of family farms.
Posted by Diocletian, Wednesday, 7 January 2009 8:19:54 PM
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