Agriculture

Murray Darling Basin Authority chief executive Rob Freeman recently proposed extending the consultation process on the draft Murray Darling Basin plan until 2012. This follows mobilisations by both farmers and environmentalists pushing competing claims. Renowned anthropologist Diane Bell, chair of the River, Lakes and Coorong Action Group, spoke to Green Left Weekly’s Gemma Weedall about the Murray Darling debate. * * *
Climate change is the biggest threat to our future, and coal is the biggest cause of climate change, yet right now there are plans for 12 new coal or gas-fired power stations around Australia. In this context, the Camp for Climate Action is taking place over December 1-5 at Liddell recreation area in the Hunter Valley, a little over an hour inland from Newcastle. The camp will take place near Liddell and Bayswater coal-fired power stations and in the sprawling moonscape of massive coalmines in the area.
“The coal seam gas industry is facing a rural revolt with farmers yesterday threatening to risk arrest and lock their gates to drilling companies”, the November 2 Brisbane Courier Mail said. “A massive expansion of the industry was ignited on the weekend when BG Group-owned Queensland Gas gave the go-ahead for a $15 billion liquefied natural gas plant at Gladstone that will be fuelled by coal seam gas from the Surat Basin. Santos, Origin and Shell are all trying to firm up their own massive LNG projects.”
The River: A Journey through the Murray-Darling Basin By Chris Hammer Melbourne University Publishing 2009, $34.99 pb Canberra journalist Chris Hammer has spent over a decade reporting on the crisis facing the Murray-Darling river system, and the communities that rely on it for their livelihoods. To write The River, however, Hammer actually travelled from tail to tip of the river system — from Cunnamulla to Dubbo and Echuca, from Bourke to Menindee and the Murray Mouth — and witnessed first-hand a river system in terminal decline.
On his TV show Alo Presidente on October 3, Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez drove tractors and inspected corn crops as he pledged to accelerate land reform and increase the government’s share of food production and distribution. Chavez announced the nationalisation of the agricultural supplies company Agroislena and the Venezuelan properties of the British Vestey Group. The show took place in Guarico state, where Chavez’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) won most of the state seats in the September 26 National Assembly elections.
The deluge of rain hitting south-east Australia has broken the 10-year drought that brought the Murray Darling Basin and many farming communities to the brink of disaster. A few months of wet weather have brought the wetlands back to life. The rivers are flowing again, and farmers might even be able to harvest a bumper crop if they can beat the mass locust hatchings.
One of Venezuela’s state-run food supply networks increased by 70% its sales in July, Edward Ellis reported in the Correo del Orinoco International on August 13. Ellis said commerce minister Richard Canan told Venezuelan television program Desperto Venezuela of a record income for the Bicentennial Markets, which took in a total of US$56.5 million in July. Ellis said Canan, a member of socialist President Hugo Chavez’s government, reported a 2.1 million people visited the markets in July, an increase of 35%.
Recent scenes of roadblocks, strikes and even the dynamiting of a vice-minister’s home in the Bolivian department (administrative district) of Potosi, reminiscent of the days of previous neoliberal governments, have left many asking themselves what is really going on in the “new” Bolivia of indigenous President Evo Morales. Since July 29, the city of Potosi, which has 160,000 inhabitants, has ground to a halt. Locals are up in arms over what they perceive to be a lack of support for regional development on the part of the national government.
“The poisoning of groundwater near Kingaroy is just the tip of the iceberg with coal seam gas [CSG] extraction”, climate change activist and Socialist Alliance candidate for the seat of Brisbane Ewan Saunders told Green Left Weekly. The contamination of groundwater by toxic chemicals was revealed two weeks ago, sparking calls for urgent action against the CSG industry, which is rapidly expanding in south-eastern Queensland.
Peoplequake: Mass Migration, Ageing Nations & the Coming Population Crash By Fred Pearce Corgi Books, 2010, 352 pages Review by Martin Empson In the 200 years since the Reverend Thomas Malthus first penned his tract, An Essay on the Principle of Population, the question of the “carrying capacity” of the planet has repeatedly appeared. Most recently, mainstream debates around how to solve the question of climate change have boiled down to the simplistic argument that “there are too many people”.
Five hundred farmers from the Darling Downs agricultural region attended a protest meeting at Cecil Plains, west of Toowoomba, on May 19. They protested against the expansion of coal seam gas mining on their properties. The May 19 Courier-Mail said the farmers called on the state government to place a moratorium on mining development while its environmental impacts are properly assessed. The protesters surrounded a paddock with a one-kilometre barrier of farm machinery in a demonstration of their abilityto stop the mining companies from entering their properties.
The decade-long campaign against the Bickham coal project, north of Scone in New South Wales, ended in victory on May 14, when NSW Premier Kristina Keneally announced the government would reject the proposed mine. The open-cut mine would have extracted 36 million tonnes of coal over 25 years. Keneally's decision came after the May 3 publication of the state Planning Assessment Commission's (PAC) report, which recommended the mine not proceed. It could be the first time the NSW government has ever blocked the development of a coalmine.
Farmers at Caroona on the Liverpool Plains near Quirindi, New South Wales, have been defending their properties from invasion by BHP-Billiton’s coal exploration drillers. For 615 days, until March 25, they inspired coal-threatened communities everywhere with their blockade, by saying “No” — and meaning it. Trish Duddy and Tommy and George Clift have been at the blockade camp for every one of those 615 days, joined by other locals on a rolling roster for cups of tea, information-swapping, resolve-steeling — and symbolic trailblazing.
This four-part seminar series will address: The cause of pandemics, droughts, soil erosion and land and river system degradation.

The Armidale Community Garden is open on 4 afternoons a week, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from around 1pm until dusk when the chooks agree to being shut in for the night.

Follow the link for further details.

Alan Broughton, co-author of "Sustainable Agriculture vs Corporate Greed", will argue that small-scale, sustainable farming and socialism go hand in hand.

The industrial farming practiced by agribusiness is marked by land degradation and heavy use of insecticides, herbicides and fertilisers. Agribusiness is also a big contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. But contrary to the myths spread by big-business apologists, the evidence shows that family farms are many times more productive and better cared for than large holdings.

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