Respect for farmers and a fair price for food

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We are awestruck by writers, politicians and B-grade celebrities, writes Sophie Love, yet farmers are, ironically, placed at the bottom of the food chain.

As a global society we place great value on our actors, entertainers, musicians and models, imbuing them with super powers and salaries to match. 

We reward some writers with abundant riches, we pay our politicians well and gift them greatness, we are awestruck by the shenanigans of reality tv 'stars' and wannabe B-listers. We have media moguls who earn more than small nations and we turn a blind eye to their corporate tax avoidance tactics. We have huge global businesses we gladly hand over our hard earned wages to in return for small cups of coffee or meals of dubious nutritional quality and questionable emotional satiation. 

In Australia, we have a duopoly who monopolise our money across a wide range of our household and business needs. 

Note that nowhere did I say we revere farmers. Farmers appear to be lowest on the food chain of those who deserve respect, riches and rewards. But they are the food chain. As humans still have to eat three times a day and need a wide range of nutrients in order to obtain and maintain optimum health, why aren't farmers at the pinnacle of the societal pyramid? Surely we need farmers before we need politicians, entertainers, writers and models.

People don't protest at the pump at the amount they are gifting to international oil companies and the government. Most people have to have the latest widescreen plasma TV, iPad, iPhone and so on, and don't question the price of that or which poor sweatshop worker cobbled it together for a dollar or two while greedy offshore tax havens bank the cash. No-one denies themselves a well earned stubby or wine at the end of a hard day's yakka. But those same people demand that food is cheap. So the farmer gets screwed.

Those same farmers who are planting trees, sequestering carbon, repairing riparian areas by protecting them from noxious weeds, improving soil, fostering biodiversity, looking after Australian native flora and fauna, as well as growing and rearing a nation's food. But is it really ok if they work from sun-up to sun-down with dangerous machinery and back breaking labour, seven days a week for a subsistence wage?

We expect fair pay for the ADF, nurses, teachers etc. 

What about farmers? 

Some will say:

"Farming is a business like any other, if you can't make it pay, get out."

It's not a business like any other because Mother Nature is in charge, and she is feckless and wanton in her moods and tantrums.

Australians happily pay $4.50 for a loaf of machine made bread (flour, salt, sugar, yeast, water) and little or no nutritional benefit, but expect to pay less than that for a dozen protein packed, hand collected and washed eggs. In the current drought situation, farmers are only getting $320 for a one year old weaner (weighing 200 kg = $1.6 per kilo) which is then processed for the duopoly (approx $1 a kilo for butchering, packing & freight) and sold in the supermarkets for somewhere between $13.00 and $20 a kilo.  The average Aussie doesn't chuck a tanty before he sears his steak on the barbie about the price he pays for his meat three times a day. But only the middleman is getting rich (Wesfarmers had net earnings of of $2.689 billion last financial year, while Woolworths posted a $2.45 billion profit) while many of the old timer beef producers around here would be happy with a gross $25,000 turnover. And that's on 1,000 acres. Which, let me tell you, is like a demanding child — always needing something from you in terms of either time or money.

The naysayers say "get out" and maybe that is what the Government is trying to do — gift all the smaller parcels, marginal and subsistence farmers' farms to AGL etc to frack out of existence and force farming into ever more controlled feedlots, broadacre and GM cropping. But does that serve our human bodies, the environment, the animals? Is it ethical?

Let alone what CSG can do to our precious waterways — inground and above. The literal lifeblood of this nation. We live on a river. We see the changes in salinity. For instance, our Pitt Street Farmer neighbour uses a lot of herbicides and superphosphate and on the bend in the river where his runoff meets the river the saline deposits on the river stones increases proportionately year on year. We have no such deposits on our river bed. But we have more neighbours upstream now and we are seeing manifest changes in water quality, platypus numbers, sickness etc. We all drink that water. Everyone drinks river and dam water in Australia.  

If the waterways are poisoned then we are all poisoned. Not just those living on the land. Everyone who eats and drinks. Every one of us. 

We all need to think about farmers and food, three times a day. Think about how much we need them, how we should start respecting and honouring them. How much we owe them and how they have a right to an honest wage for a day's hard work. I hope, in my lifetime, I see less in the media about photoshopped celebrities and more appreciation of the lined and wrinkled faces, gnarled and blackened fingers and strong and wiry bodies of the practical folk buffeted by nature, who can turn their hands to anything to get the job done, and who put their lives into their land and the food they raise for others.

You can follow Sophie Love on Twitter @TheNakedFarmers.

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