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Sunday, February 25, 2024

“On the dilemmas of our agriculture”

By: Dr Andreja Valič Zver

When a person lives in a big city, it is hard to imagine life on a farm. The (big) townspeople usually buy fruits and vegetables in shopping malls where the food seems to have fallen from the sky. “You buy and carry it in your mouth” (not “From garden fork to fork”) could be the slogan of the average consumer who has been spoiled by the modern way of life and the food industry. But the so-called climate change, greening, and the heady hype about a “low carbon footprint” have really shaken up European agriculture and everything related to it.

Involuntarily, historical memory takes us back to the time of the medieval peasant riots, which are taking place here and now, considering the significant reduction of the agricultural population. France, The Netherlands, Belgium. Which EU member will be next? Slovenian farmers are also slowly waking up. For now, they express their opposition to new-age existential threats more shyly and within the framework of debates in the State Council, but it is only a matter of time when the enraged will appear on the streets of the Slovenian capital. They have an example, as said, with French, Dutch, and Belgian farmers. Revolted by the government’s threats to close several thousand farms and other forms of reduction in agricultural production, farmers occupied Dutch highways and cities with tractors last year, and last week the streets of the Belgian capital. They were noisy, demanding, and unyielding, as befits the descendants of many generations of landowners who are “guardians of the family and the land”. But maybe there is the rub?

Even Earth’’ richest man, Elon Musk, tweeted his support for “farm punts”. Well, that means something. The Dutchman Timmermans, the infamous vice-president of the European Commission, who – to the credit of whom – is pushing Europe into the abyss of dependence on Chinese, Indian, and other crops, and products with his Fit for 55 agenda, should explain a lot to us. When he will be long gone, it appears that Europe will be hungry and dependent. Is this Timmermans’ ulterior motive?

With the multitude of problems facing Europe today, attacks on agriculture seem an entirely unnecessary open front. But behind them are hidden much more fatal tendencies that intend to modify the lives of us and our descendants beyond recognition. The attachment to land, home and homeland has been immanent and latently present especially in the peasantry since time immemorial. That is why the communists called the peasants class enemies, the kulaks, dispossessed them, restricted them, starved them, condemned them, imprisoned them, humiliated them, killed them, so that the way to the “new world” would be widely cleared and opened.

Jože Pučnik – whose birthday we celebrate this week – understood this very well, for example! When he was paroled from prison in 1963, he joined the magazine Perspektive and published a study On the dilemmas of our agriculture. He wanted to answer the question why the capitalist USA feeds people with grain and thereby prevents hunger in socialist countries. He concluded that the authorities saw agriculture as an ideological rather than an economic phenomenon. Nationalisation, forced confiscation of agricultural products, and other drastic post-war measures in the countryside made normal agricultural production impossible. The authorities could not stand Pučnik’s criticism, so they revoked the pardon and threw Pučnik back into prison – for 28 months, nine of them in solitary confinement.

Although the Slovenian agricultural policy is an integral part of the common European agricultural policy, today we once again need such an insightful critic of agricultural policy as Pučnik was. The reform, which bears the stamp of leftist and urban ideology, is an integral part of the aforementioned Fit for 55 mega-reform, which uncompromisingly reduces the environmental “footprint” of agriculture.

The regulation that limits the use of phytopharmaceuticals in agriculture is particularly problematic for Slovenians. Instead of using pesticides that threaten water and soil, farmers should get used to “integrated plant protection”. It is a kind of set of non-chemical means and approaches, which have so far proved to be ineffective. However, the Commission plans to ban the use of pesticides even in environments where the conditions of agricultural production are more difficult, where half of Slovenian agricultural land belongs! Special forms of controls and penalties are also foreseen, which are even related to pay-outs. In practice, this means that if pesticides are used, farmers will not receive the usual subsidies. If this comes true, Slovenian agriculture will be on its knees. If we consider that the price of food is rising rapidly and that we are not self-sufficient in food, we are all facing a great test together. Will history repeat itself and we will once again owe Americans a grain of gratitude?!?

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