Economics, Politics and the Law

It’s often been said that Enlightened Agriculture is “unrealistic”: that small, low-input farms cannot feed the world; that labour-intensive farming is impossible because no-one wants to work on the land.

All of this is the precise opposite of the truth. What is true, is that Enlightened Agriculture does not accord with the economic and political status quo. It does not seek to maximize wealth. More: it does not concentrate wealth or power in the hands of elites. On the contrary — it restores wealth and autonomy to people at large. Within the food chain, farmers regain their proper status; and the food chain as a whole again becomes a part of all society. All this is anathema to an economy controlled by banks and corporates, and to governments, including those called “democratic”, who like to feel that have complete control. In short, Enlightened Agriculture is “unrealistic” not because it could not work, but because those in power would feel threatened.

The law is made by people in power, and in general tends to favour the status quo. Present laws and regulations militate against small farms in a hundred ways — preventing some desirable practices and protecting many that are less desirable; and although Britain urgently needs a new generation of farmers, and a tenfold increase in numbers, a host of laws and rules, besides the huge obstacle of money, make it extremely difficult for newcomers to gain a foothold.

Many groups that aspire to be radical, including many charities and NGOs, seek to make deals with the powers-that-be – persuading supermarkets to stock some local produce; seeking audience with MPs. But if we really want farming that can feed us all properly then we have to create conditions in which Enlightened Agriculture is not seen simply to be “unrealistic”, at best to be condescended to. We need to challenge the status quo – the economy, the way we govern ourselves, and the law. Even as things stand, however, there are laws and economic mechanisms that could abet the kinds of changes that need to be made. Surprisingly often, indeed, we find that it’s the powers-that-be that are operating on the edge of the law, rather than the protestors. In short, on the positive side, we need to identify and proper use of the legal and economic structures that could be very much on side.

So there’s a huge amount to be thought about and made explicit. Here, too, are obvious opportunities to work with a wide range of existing organizations – some obviously radical, but also some in the main stream.

People Need Nature policy report just published

Published on Jan 3 2017, this report was written by Miles King et al of “People Need Nature” Called “A Pebble in the Pond: Opportunities for farming, food and nature … Read on

New York Times on the corruption of agricultural research by the industry that sponsors it

This piece in the NYT (Dec 31 2016) describes what is now common practice in universities that take money from industry: “scientists deliver outcomes favorable to companies, while university research … Read on

The politics of Agroecology: cooptation and resistance in the global north

This article written by Miguel Altieri and Eric Holt-Giménez and published by Food First (Oct 18 2016) warns that “The political dimension of agroecology is problematic in the Global North—particularly … Read on

All Party Parliamentary Group on Agroecology: Inquiry into Soil Health

The Group conducted an inquiry into soil health and protection in 2015/16, with a particular focus on agriculture.  Evidence was heard across three oral evidence sessions from a number of … Read on

Farming, Food and Brexit: Discussion Paper from Tim Lang and Victoria Schoen

What we’ve all been waiting for:  a thorough appraisal of the pros and cons of staying in the EU from the point of view of “enlightened agriculture”. Tim Lang and … Read on

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