Less Food, More Pollution as Investors Grab Farmland
|June 14, 2014||Posted by Staff under Land Disputes, Subsidies & Waste & Public Debt|
These 2014 excerpt of IPS, May 29, is by Stephen Leahy.
The world is increasingly hungry because small farmers are losing access to farmland. Small farmers produce most of the world’s food but are now squeezed onto less than 25 percent of the world’s farmland. Corporate and commercial farms, big biofuel operations, and land speculators are pushing millions off their land.
If all farms in Central America matched the output of small farms, the region would produce three times as much food.
Zimbabwe was harshly criticised by the international community for redistributing farmland to smallholders, including women, in 2000. They now produce over 90 percent of the nation’s food crops, compared to 60 to70 percent before 2000.
Small farmers practicing agroecological farming produce more food, protect soil and water, have far lower CO2 emissions and provide better livelihoods.
Big investors see farmland as a safe and secure investment, especially in the US, with its multi-billion dollar farm subsidies. In many areas the price of land has shot upwards pushing many farmers off their land. US farms are increasingly run by corporate farm managers who hire farm workers not farmers.
Ed. Notes: If investors could not keep the rental value of land, would they still want to own it? Is the profit from harvests enough to attract investors? Or is it the subsidies not just to big farms but also to big shippers and big truckers? And factory farms do not have to pay for the damage they do to the environment, such as the dead zones in the ocean from fertilizer runoff. If they had to buy insurance and pay compensation, how eager would outside investors be? Is agri-business another of those industries that’s unable to profit unless it can pollute, free of charge?
Not only should government quit its subsidies and charge our polluters but it should also quit taxing wages. Gardening and small farming is labor intensive while factory farming is capital intensive. Hence taxes on labor and deductions for capital shift profit from small farms to big.
Government should also charge land dues and pay rent dividends. Since land value is low in the country and high in the city, and the dividend would be equal for all citizens, farmers would come out ahead while wealthy investors, who typically live on locations of sky-high site value, would pay more. These two shifts — of profit and of location value — are all the help farmers need. But it’s is up to us to declare that all land — not just farmland — is not a usual source of profit but also our common heritage, to be shared and conserved. Land dues and Citizen’s Dividends make that claim loud and clear.