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Pressures to overproduce

Posted: Thu Aug 06, 2009 8:09 pm
by sheilan
On a site I edit at"> we are engaged in a discussion about overproduction</a>, among other things. Natural Sequence Farming has been alluded to.

If you feel strongly about the subject of pressures to overproduce (which negatively affect soil and hydrology), perhaps you would like to respond to my post there, which I also cut and paste here, where you are also welcome to respond. I don't pretend to be an expert.

Overproduction explanation
On August 6th, 2009 Sheila Newman says:

Hi Tigerquoll,

Yes, part of my issue is the poor margin the farmer makes per head compared with the ultimate retail kilo price paid for by the consumers. Retail oligopoly and market dominance is indeed a serious problem undermining Australian retail (not just for meat).

Most costs, e.g. land-costs, taxes, water costs, feed costs, fertiliser costs, and taxes, are exorbitant and have grown beyond the control of many primary producers and have also raised the cost of manufacturing and land for housing, interest rates, fees for services and things like schools, etc (which impact back on farmers).

The market, to which we are all now bound, is manipulated by the big players - corporate transport, corporate retail, corporate agriculture, corporate banks etc. We are bound to this market, now international, by the need to pay taxes and fulfill commercial standards. It is now very difficult for a farmer to take control and sell locally, thus avoiding the costs to him of the profit margins required by transport, middlemen and retailers.

Where once you could run cattle or grow crops to feed a family, with a little over for some basic schooling, you now have to make a far greater profit. But the costs of that profit are huge (petroleum, machinery, fertiliser, veterinary, supplementary feed, even grain feed, various licenses, plus water - which people used not to pay for if they had it on the property), rates (which increase as the city encroaches -, loans on land and plant etc.). Most farmers have to take out loans with interest rates increased partly by the competition for money caused by faster higher returns in speculative industries, such as property development.

To keep up with these payments farmers try to practise economies of scale, pushing their properties and their animals and soils past their viable limit. Which means that when drought or flood or pestilence or a drop in market prices for their 'primary product' happens, they get more and more behind.

In fact we have seen, until recently, a continuous trend in lower prices for food - at least when purchased in first world currencies. Any increases have tended to be marshalled by the secondary and retail industries, because those industries are corporatised (organised internationally with huge capital bases) and able to move around the world or interstate cherry-picking prices.

The farmer has no such power. Big agribusiness has that power, but big agribusiness is the same business as supermarkets, major press and transport ... all one big system of affiliations.

So this means that, no matter what the farmer does, his prices will fall. On occasions there will be a good year, but due to debt and a tiny margin for profit, the farmer who is not part of big agribusiness, eventually loses; his soil is destroyed; he has to sell his water to pay costs, then cannot operate without water; or he has to sell his farm.

During this process the animals, subject to a variety of processes to make them grow faster with less or unusual food, to stuff more into paddocks, or fatten them standing in pens, to be slaughtered earlier, to be milked even harder (skeletons collapse in cows only a few years old when they are frequently milked); etc etc.

This can also be described as 'overshoot' of carrying capacity on that farm. Multiplied by many farmers, it becomes overshoot of a region's or a country's carrying capacity, with the indicators in the ruined soils, the disaggregated water, the loss of private farms to agribusiness etc.

The way out of this predicament is for the farmers to sell their product locally and to control production so that they simply charge enough for their product to be able to run herds or grow crops in a sustainable manner. The production needs to be much more modest. The indicators of production within carrying capacity are: land remains in good condition; water is not disaggregated and sold off and lost; loans are unnecessary; animals and crops grow naturally; cruelty is reduced.

In fact the prices of the products may well remain less than they are in the global system because you have removed so many layers of profit that are added to the cost to the consumer and deducted from the price to the farmer.

Our farmers are currently in a position where they have to produce more and faster, with a very small staff, just to stay in one place. The same can be said for most people on this planet; running to pay a bunch of profiteers who call this situation efficient.

And what causes this situation? Population growth engineered to drive inflation of all resources and services. And then those resources and services are privatised, and the privateers charge 'rents' on them, just the way the nobles charged the peasants in feudal times.

Naturally I agree with your solution, Tigerquoll, to "stop cheap imports, legislate against market dominance and bloody well enforce it, national investment into quality produce, best practice livestock and training, develop niche industries and markets such as organic beef, and customer focused strategies". I have, however, related the essential issue of carrying capacity at the farm gate to carrying capacity in regions, countries and the world.

Much has been written about this, of course, better than I have done here, but, for the sake of discussion, it is worth sketching bits out here.

I am familiar with Natural Sequence Farming, permaculture and a number of other theories, plus quite a few experimental or theoretical papers from CSIRO or other researchers. I had a quick look at two of your other links but do not have the time to devote to these specific links. Let me know if there is something in them that I obviously do not realise. Perhaps, in that case, rather than just give links - if they are really new ideas - you might copy and paste some of their statements etc onto a post here?

Hope this helps. Please ask questions etc.

Sheila Newman, population sociologist
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Posted: Fri Aug 07, 2009 10:47 pm
by Shirley Henderson
Sheila, yours in an excellent post with factual information. I believe the word that describes the predicament farmers and the rest of our population is in can be labeled, SLAVERY. Every dollar we borrow carries a higher price to be paid back and in turn that interest also acrues interest. The government is offering over 2 billion in grants to care for our environment sustainably and you can bet most of that money will be ordered to be spent on chemicals for weed control. I can see the chemical companies rubbing their hands with glee because no real money will be exchanged and they can already consider that promised amount as profit to invest and relend again "with interest attached". No money is changing hands but everyone is forced to work to earn their income, pay taxes, morgages, loans, bills, buy food, sustain the environment and work, work, work to get that profit into the hands of those large companies and banks. I can only suggest that we some how try to put the brakes on it by refusing to buy those chemicals and refusing to spray those chemicals by saying, "just can't afford it". In the name of animal welfare and the sustainable management of your land a better way has been found. NSF. You have to prioritise your money and animal welfare and the environmental health and your own family welfare of course has to be prioritised over following these outdated laws that force you to poison the land and waterways and kill the very thing that can restore your land to health, diversity. But be very careful that you have backing and support from others to do the same as the chemical companies will not be happy if they do not get their 2.7 billion. They will want to put a stop to that immediately and they do not care about or support the health and welfare of your animals, your farms or your family. They only support the wealth they can gain from the slavery of dept.


Posted: Sat Aug 08, 2009 12:51 am
by sheilan
Thanks Shirley. Yes, it's frightening.
And people have known about this kind of slavery since time immemorial.
Did you know that relocalisation is really what 'anarchism' is about?
All these movements to take back power get demonised, one after another.


Sheila Newman

Posted: Sun Aug 09, 2009 11:52 pm
by ColinJEly
I thoroughly recommend you read a book which I have just finished, it is entitled 'Eat the Rich' by P J O'Rourke.

....and as for forestry, I worked in the Frankston area for four years, during that time I didn't discover one family living in a Yurt! ;-)

Posted: Wed Aug 12, 2009 8:47 pm
by jenni
and we are supposed to be feeding the planet. Here here sheila. My husband and i have been told we are wasting our country.we have ceased chemical and inorganic fertiliser use and made some big management changes.we are letting weeds grow and mulching article in the land recently reported the findings of a apparently well regarded ag consultancy business. They say that you cannot expect to make money and have a pretty post card farm.people pay good money for this makes me really sad.

Posted: Wed Aug 12, 2009 9:58 pm
by ColinJEly
I have sent emails to a couple of small farming magazines talking about Peter and NSF. So far I haven't even got a reply from them, let alone seen anything in them, the closest I have seen is an article recently about permaculture. However if you look in them you see lots of full colour ads for chemical fertilizer, I did see one add recently for 'seasol' products.

Posted: Thu Aug 13, 2009 12:15 pm
by jenni
again in the land today, a farmer reported that he has rejected advice to up his stocking numbers and turn off more store lambs.he cited the desire for animal and farm health as the reason why. i am stunned that our ag consultancy firms are advising the sacrifice of animal and soil health as a viable farm management and money making scheme.

Posted: Sat Aug 15, 2009 3:24 am
by Angela Helleren
Not surprising really Jenni.

Ag companies, like in any other industry, spend their advertising dollars where they feel they will get the most return through sales of the product.
Magazines are businesses that depend on the advertising dollar. Articles that support the interest of their advertisers are favorably looked upon.

Readers/consumers should always question - whose interest is really being served?

NSF doesn't promote the use of expensive Ag products or take out paid advertisements. It does promote better farm practises to achieve cost savings without degrading the environment.

Great post Sheila!
Spot on again, Shirley!

Posted: Sat Aug 15, 2009 6:55 am
by jenni
I'm so grateful that we have discovered nsf as well as holistic management.we tried advanced sowing/no kill cropping this year and are really pleased with the results.we feel like we are now insulated somewhat from the pressures sheila spoke of, whereas before they weighed quite heavy. Cheers nsf.

Posted: Sat Aug 15, 2009 9:44 pm
by duane
Thanks Jenni for the compliment. HM is a good management tool and complements NSF.