Swiss ref­er­en­dum re­fuses to pay farm­ers more

Moose Jaw - - News - By Ron Wal­ter For Agri-Mart Ex­press

The di­rect democ­racy op­er­at­ing in Switzer­land just re­jected two pro­pos­als gov­ern­ing food safety and sup­port for farm­ers.

A fair food pol­icy that asked for more sup­port to pro­duce sus­tain­able food, an­i­mal friendly food and for more de­tailed re­tail la­belling fell with 61.3 per cent of vot­ers op­posed.

A sovereignty pol­icy re­quir­ing in­creased sup­port pay­ments to farm­ers, higher tar­iffs on im­ported food and a ban on im­ported food not meet­ing Swiss stan­dards was de­feated by 68.4 per cent.

Turnout was 37 per cent. The food pro­pos­als likely met de­feat when gov­ern­ment sug­gested these changes would in­crease food costs, re­quire more food in­spec­tors and even re­duce food im­ports by la­belling re­quire­ments.

Only four Swiss can­tons (states) sup­ported the ref­er­en­dum pro­pos­als. To get on the na­tional ref­er­en­dum needs 100,000 sig­na­tures on a pe­ti­tion. Agri­cul­ture is a tiny but cru­cial in­dus­try in Switzer­land pro­vid­ing less than one per cent of na­tional in­come. The 25,000 farms do sup­ply 73 per cent of Swiss food on farms av­er­ag­ing 40 acres. About one-quar­ter of Swiss farms are dairy op­er­a­tions. About 1,000 dairy farm­ers a year are be­ing lost. Milk quo­tas ended in 2009.

The num­ber of farms de­clined from 68,000 in 1990 to cur­rent num­bers. Or­ganic farm­ing has in­creased in re­cent years from 10 per cent to 14 per cent of farms. The po­lit­i­cally-neu­tral coun­try is not a mem­ber of the Eu­ro­pean Union and has re­formed agri­cul­ture from fixed price sub­si­dies in the 1980s to mar­ket-driven in comes.

But sub­stan­tial gov­ern­ment sup­port pro­vides 58 per cen of farm in­come. The fi­nan­cial sup­port is jus­ti­fied by a de­sire to en­sure food sup­plies and save the fam­ily farm In­stead of fund­ing sup­port linked to pro­duc­tion, Swiss farm­ers are paid for tak­ing care of the land­scape and pub­lic/pri­vate en­vi­ron­men­tal ser­vices by farm­ers. Strict guide­lines based on fer­til­izer use, crop ro­ta­tion soil pro­tec­tion and use of prod­ucts to pro­tect plants mus be fol­lowed to ob­tain the gov­ern­ment com­pen­sa­tion.

Ron Wal­ter can be reached at ron­joy@sask­

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