Swiss referendum refuses to pay farmers more
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 email@example.com