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Flowering Almond Tree Credit to Wikipedia

Flowering Almond Tree
Credit to Wikipedia

This isn’t one of those erudite articles that offer facts and figures. But recent events made it necessary for me to write how I feel about the priorities of politicians and most journalists in this country. And anyway, I promised Time Thief that I would try to push myself out of my comfy square and write something a bit more confronting. Here it is. Not quite where I wanted it to be, but I don’t have as much writing time available to me right now. So please be kind.

I heard a man interviewed on air. He talked about having to burn his orchard down because the canning factory that was supporting him, his neighbours and the townspeople who relied on the factory for work was cutting back on buying local fruit in favour of cheaper imports. This man had been in the fruit growing business forty years. I could tell it was breaking his heart to be forced to it. It wasn’t pique but a necessity as fruit left on trees can result in fungal diseases, moths and fruit flies.

The business of feeding the public wasn’t going to make the government as much money as saving the car industry would o no one was interested. Except that no matter how much money has been thrown at the car industry it’s turned out to be a bust.

This man and his problems was hardly a blip on the air-waves horizon. The host of the program gave him the time and the air space, then moved on to more important issues such as the said state of our car industry and of course politics which, being close to a Federal election, is a big thing right now.

Here’s what I think. We can always go back to using a horse and buggy if we’re pushed to it. And politicians are a worthless dime a dozen. Politicians have sold and outsourced everything they can get their greedy hands on. Who needs them?

If our farming industry goes, that’s it. Foreign investors are buying up our farms and who can blame the farmers who are being offered several times what the land is worth. Pretty soon we’re going to have to rely on the kindness of strangers to support our eating habits.

All our icons are gone, sold to overseas investors. Big business, what’s left of it here, is outsourcing outside workers at cheaper rates. And we are being told it’s our fault for not being competitive enough. Business believes that it’s a shame that we find slave labour wages unacceptable. We get paid too much to make production in this country a viable proposition and keep us competitive. But any less and we don’t get to eat and pay our mortgages.

Think I’m exaggerating? Recently, a car company, Holden, asked its employees to take a pay cut. The threat being that the company’s manufacturing arm will be forced to leave Australia. But given the track record of the many rats over the decades that deserted the sinking ship I don’t think the pay cut will do those workers much good for much longer. Possibly it will shore up the CEO’s salaries for a little while.

How would those people be expected to manage the cost of living? Our politicians have had three pay raises in the past 16 months but they’d be perfectly happy for the rest of us work for slave wages. Politicians aren’t competitive, they aren’t asked to prove productivity and they don’t have to even raise a hand and ask for more money. The independent Remuneration Tribunal looks after politicians. Apparently they have earned 3 pay raises in 16 months. The base salary of an average backbencher will rise to $196,130. Our prime minister who has done a sterling job of running our country can expect an annual income of $507,338, this isn’t counting the perks and indexed superannuation.

Where’s the farmer in all this? No Remuneration Tribunal for him. He’s expected to feed us our daily bread. But let’s not support him. For generations farming families have been providing us city slickers with food for our table and indirectly canned goods for our pantry. Farmers live the sort of life that the rest of us would find difficult, onerous even. You certainly couldn’t part me from my mod cons and eating my lunch al fresco at my favourite café. I’m sure that farmers, if you could ask them would tell you that they can think of no more satisfying existence. But in a country that boasts of sweeping plains…of drought and flooding rains no one can pretend that farming is a (excuse the pun) piece of cake. Of course if it were, a piece of cake, farmers would be at the ones to provide the wheat for flour, the eggs, the butter and the milk. But it’s not a piece of cake. Disease and droughts and floods consistently rear their ugly heads. But nothing is nastier than business men or women and politician who have been shafting farmers for decades.

The projected statistics say our population is likely to triple in the next fifty years. It doesn’t worry our politicians. The buzz-word is infrastructure. Not that they’re doing anything practical about it. But I have to ask, how do you eat infrastructure? We can keep on breeding, but what the earth can provide us with is finite. I remember learning about rotating crops and keeping fields fallow to regenerate. Wish I’d taken more notice back then. I worry that unless we protect and support our farmers, we are doomed.

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4 thoughts on “Farming isn’t a piece of cake

  1. Biggest problem for our farmers is that the consumer expects to be able to buy cheap food! Aussie groceries always command a premium as you know, but the market share is small and the processors, retailers and consumers, greedy. This is the whole story of cheap, supermarket brands. Lesson here, read labels, pay more. This is a contentious and important issue, thanks for giving it an airing and me a soapbox on which to vent.

    • Glad to give you and me the opportunity. Blogs are great, aren’t they? Sandra, the consumer has been conditioned to buy cheap food for years without much questioning until it was too late how it came about. It’s only now when we are finally conscious about such things that we’re finding out that almost all our products are imported. Those of us who are prepared to pay more look in vain for the ‘made in Australia’ label. There’s no doubt about it, the farmer is being shafted by supermarket giants and our collaboration has made it possible. I don’t know how helpful it is, but I go to an independent butcher who sources farm produce; and I buy from independent fruit and vegetable shops and I also go to farmer’s markets when I can. I’m really ropable that journalists who know quite well how to beat up an issue when it suits them don’t have the imagination to understand the need to give the Australian farmer more air time.

  2. If we could get a decent explanation for some of these decisions perhaps that would help. As it is, I’m uncomfortable with selling off our dirt, the offshore employment, foreign ownership of utilities such as power and so on. Selling off seems a short term fix for a long term issue. I wonder where it’s going?

    • You said it, Bruce. I think Jeff Kennett began it all. That man stuffed up everything he did. He wrecked the education system, the hospitals, transport and a whole lot of other things that there’s no use listing if we don’t want to depress ourselves.

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