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Alistair McConnachie published Sovereignty from July 1999 to its 120th consecutive monthly issue in June 2009, and he continues to maintain this website.
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Your Britain poster
By Alistair McConnachie and first published in a Sovereignty Special Report distributed free with the March 2002 issue.

The recent Curry Commission report on "the future of farming and food" stated that its recommendations were intended to be consistent with "increased trade liberalisation". The popular word for this is globalisation.

The report included some good suggestions about boosting local markets. However, it is not consistent to advocate local markets within a context of "increased trade liberalisation".

If we want to boost local markets we must gear our economy towards a policy of localisation, not globalisation.

Colin Hines, author of Localisation: A Global Manifesto explains that localisation means that everything that can be produced locally or nationally, should be. Long distance trade is then used properly for exchanging that which cannot be produced locally or nationally. "Beggar your neighbour" trade is replaced by "better your neighbour" trade. "Protect the local, globally" is the rallying cry.

By prioritising local and national production and distribution in this way, we enable self sufficiency in food, we provide the long-term markets at home which will enable the farming industry to weather its occasional crisis, we free the farming industry from dependence on the export trade, we curb unnecessary transportation and environmental costs, and we sustain the rural economy.

Food sovereignty means self-sufficiency in food.
The ability to feed yourself means independence, safety and survival.

It enables you, whether as an individual, or collectively as a nation, to take control of your life. It frees you from dependence upon the ruling economic system and it protects you from its trespasses.

Food sovereignty is, therefore, a fundamental requirement of self-determination, which should never be compromised.

Food sovereignty is also a defensive imperative. No nation reliant for others on its food can expect to defend itself against physical or economic trespass.

= Support small farms, rural economies, organic production, food quality, and environmental quality by ensuring subsidies are directed appropriately.
= Introduce tariffs and quotas to protect the national economy.
= Develop the home markets.
= Restrict the market power of the major food retailers. For example, there needs to be a) supermarket regulation on targets for stocking local food, b) tax penalties on the stocking of produce from overseas when the same produce is available at home, c) tax incentives to stock locally produced food.
= Ensure local decision making. Economic policies should be shaped at the grass roots. Only local participation makes projects and policies work. We don't want all the decisions made by a remote and impersonal minority of bureaucrats.
= Reduce 'food miles' by, for example, introducing a form of eco-taxation. Long-distance transportation of products which are available close to home, should be taxed. Prioritise shorter supply routes and regional markets with economic advantages.
= Develop international trade rules that promote localisation.

"All policies are decided by the EU, and its CAP. These, in turn, are mandated by the World Trade Organisation. Therefore, our scope for action is severely limited"
OK, right, that is substantially correct. But to emphasise this is to reinforce a sense of powerlessness and hopelessness. It's like saying, "Give up, there's nothing we can do about it."

It's really not very helpful. So, let's talk about what we can do. Well, for a start we can begin talking about leaving the CAP, and the EU altogether. However, in the short term, that is not going to happen tomorrow, or even the next day.

So, we can try to argue within these institutions for what we want. Fine, try it. But, realistically, they are far too remote, impersonal and slow-moving to offer any kind of salvation.

For example, the CAP is constantly being "reformed" but thousands of farmers are still losing their jobs - 20,000 in the UK in 1999 alone - the environment is still being degraded and rural communities throughout Europe are depopulating. If we're waiting for the institutions of the EU to save us, we'll be waiting a long time.

However, there is one ray of light. Sovereign governments do have the power and authority to implement whatever policies are necessary, in any given situation, at any time - regardless of any treaty obligations to the contrary.

This means that with enough grass-roots demand, any government will be forced to change its policies at home - although initially it may try to resist change by making the excuse about its treaty "obligations". At the end of the day, any government can only do what it can get away with.

"Poor countries need to export to us."
Some people claim that a localisation policy would harm developing countries which need the income from their exports.

However, this ignores the fact that many of these developing countries only need to export in order to earn the foreign exchange necessary to pay off their massive debts.

Without such a debt burden they could orientate their agricultural economies to their own needs and would not need to export cash crops. To a large extent, it is the present system which perpetuates exploitation.

Therefore, effective localisation requires debt cancellation. It also requires these countries to raise their own debt-free money from their own national banks instead of having to borrow from international lending institutions.

In any case, we will continue to import goods that we cannot provide for ourselves.

"The world's economy is so closely inter-linked now, that only changes at the international level are possible"
Again, this attitude is not particularly helpful. Nor is it particularly true.

A good idea has to start somewhere. It could start locally, or nationally, and if it's a good idea then it's likely to catch on and spread.

On the political level, we must obviously work in association with others internationally, but we need not be bound by them if such association is restricting us from doing what needs to be done.

We start from where we are. We work with what we've got. We move the system our way. Let's not wait for the United Nations to lay down some global edict. Let's start right here, right now.

We can reform the globe, locally... and we can reform the local, globally.

Let us advocate what we want, let us put it into practice, and let us consistently oppose any policies which are incompatible with our fundamental principles and aims.

Once you have a set of principles, you know what you believe, and once you have a set of aims, you know what you want to achieve.

You also know what you don't believe and what you don't want to achieve.

You know what policies are compatible with those principles and aims, and therefore should be supported; and you know which policies are incompatible with those principles and aims, and therefore should be opposed.

You know what to support and what to resist.

What we need throughout Britain, is determined advocacy for - and organised resistance to that which is incompatible with - the principles of localisation and food sovereignty, and the aim of an economically sustainable rural economy.

Other articles from the Special Report on localising agriculture are
here, here and here.

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