Protectionism, Protectionism!

Oh, how lovely. The Soil Association once again acts as the trade union for British organic farmers. It does so by insisting that farmers in other countries face higher costs:

Food air-freighted to Britain from developing countries will only bear an organic label in future if it can be shown that it was produced to fair trade standards as well as high environmental standards, the Soil Association said yesterday.

The new ethical standards, which are similar to those that apply to Fairtrade products, will demand that organic food producers in developing countries contribute substantially to the social needs of communities and workers, and guarantee wages and good working conditions.

There\’s nothing wrong with having fair trade standards, just as there\’s nothing wrong with having organic ones. If they make the consumer happier, well, that\’s the point of the whole economy anyway, to increase the happiness of the consumer.

But combining the two is not OK, it\’s protectionism in favour of the British farmer and against the foreign. Oh how liberal they are, making sure that the poor cannot compete with the rich!

For, of course, one of the competetive advantages that such poor places have is that labour is cheaper: and when you\’re growing organic vegetables, for example, labour can be one of your major costs on inputs. So, insist that the farmers pay higher prices for that labour than the local market insists upon and thus reduce their ability to compete. And all in the name of helping the poor eh, by driving the employers bankrupt. Clever scheme, eh? My how they must be hugging themselves with glee over at the Soil Association! A wealthy peer, owner outright of hundreds of acres of prime British farmland,  worth millions, gets protected from some runty peasant trying to scrape a living. And he\’ll be praised for it!

3 comments on “Protectionism, Protectionism!

  1. Would it not be lovely if the supermarkets were to establish their own “organic” certification based on how the product is actually grown and ignoring peripheral issues such as “food miles” or “carbon footprints”? Then we could choose between the expensive organic and the cheaper organic.

  2. Our families farm cannot call it’s products ‘organic’ as we will not jump through the hoops of the two ‘closed shop’ organisations that have been given effective trade mark terms of the word organic ~ despite the fact that we do not, in fact, use any product that would be in contravention of their ‘rules’. We just were not prepared to put up with their annoying dickhead staff telling us that we were farming ‘incorrectly’, when my father has been farming exactly like this for the past 40 years. He’s not interested in stupid ‘fair trade’ schemes, and the like, he’s interested in farming a well run, ethical, sympathetic to nature, small farm. We also don’t take any goverment subsidy.

    Our farm has more hedgerow and trees than when we brought it, is a haven to wildlife (especially the tasty stuff that finds it’s way into my guts after meeting Mr Gun), and there is a 2 year waiting list for our lamb, mutton and pork.

    In other words ~ our products are popular because they are good, i.e the ‘brand’ is trusted, not ‘compliant’ to some state imposed standard, and our farming method is sustainable because that makes business sense.

    So, tell me ~what point the Soil Association?

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