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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.
Alistair McConnachie also publishes Prosperity - Freedom from Debt Slavery which explains a solution for the economic crisis and A Force For Good which makes a positive case for the UK Union.
To find out more go to the about who is Alistair McConnachie page.
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Alistair McConnachie: We always hear that if British farming is to survive then it must become "efficient". What is meant by this term? Essentially, it means that it must become "profitable". Well, sure, becoming profitable makes sense. Farmers being able to make a living makes sense.

The real question is: How are we intended to become "efficient", and consequently, able to sustain ourselves economically?

Are we talking here of re-orientating agriculture to local and national markets, are we talking about developing national food sovereignty, are we talking about moving towards extensive and organic methods of production? Are we talking about preventing cheap imports from undercutting home production? Are we talking about properly directed subsidies and support mechanisms which will ensure we move away from industrial factory farming and towards organic, holistic and natural family farming? Are we talking about re-directing the £3.3 billion of taxpayers money which we spend annually supporting continental agriculture, and instead spending it more appropriately here at home?

That's the language that we at Sovereignty are talking, but what do the government economists mean when they talk "efficiency"?

Unfortunately, however, when the system talks "efficiency" it means moving from agri-culture to agri-production, from extensive to intensive, from natural to industrial, from small to large, from big to bigger, from farm to factory, from family concern to corporate consolidation. It means cutting down on the subsidies which are keeping farmers afloat, and it means continuing to allow cheap imports to undercut home production.

This is the "efficient" direction it advocates and this is the direction which is driving around 20,000 farmers and workers off the land every year in Britain.

The following letter was published in The Farmers Weekly under the title Producing Food the Civil Way, on 28 June 2002. It illustrates that productivity does not necessarily ensure profitability if the market place you have to operate within is loaded against you, and that average incomes per head of the farming population have been falling, just as the numbers of farmers have been falling.

Sean Rickard's comments (Letters, June 7) seem to be based on an economic theory that the way to increase profitability in farming is to increase productivity.

That is strange, as I am sure he has seen the worrying graph put out by DEFRA in Sustainable Food and Farming - Working Together showing how the income per person in farming had declined. In the early 1970s it was more than £20,000 at 2001 prices.

It had reduced to £5000 in 2000. There was a period centred on 1995 when it returned almost to the 1970s' level before falling again so disastrously.

Does Mr Rickard really believe that this index of incomes has any association with productivity? Remember it is per person, not per farm and numbers are steadily reducing.

It seems fairly obvious to a non-economist that what increased productivity has done for us is to give the buyers of our products the ability to beat down the prices they pay us for our products.

I believe the more efficient potato sector that he mentions is much smaller in producer numbers than formerly. Most small producers have given up under competition from large operators who are able to afford expensive and sophisticated machinery to reduce their unit costs.

Presumably this is the future Mr Rickard is advocating for all sectors.

Our government seems to favour his approach. Where does the NFU stand?

It is a pity we have no economists studying how food can be produced in a civilised, rather than industrialised way.

Pippa Woods

Chairman,  The Family Farmers' Association, Osborne Newton,  Aveton Gifford,  Kingsbridge,  South Devon

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