We Might Be Driving the Train, But We Sure As Hell Didn’t Lay the Tracks

Beef Industry leaders are pleased that “we” have developed our own definition of “sustainability.” They proudly reassure others that “we” are driving this train.

But they forget that “we” didn’t lay the tracks. The faster we go, the sooner we’ll be at the destination pre-determined by our enemies.

It is amusing that “our” sustainability definition is essentially the same as the United Nation’s —  Triple Bottom Line (TBL) and all.

All private property owners inherently know that we have to take care of our land and livestock in order to be profitable.  And we invest in our families and communities, too.

So TBL (environment, society and economics) seems acceptable within a definition of sustainability.  How could any agriculturalist have a problem with that?

The problem lies in differing world views.  The morality of our enemies cannot coexist with our own morality.  They are mutually exclusive.

Wildlife, the environment, biodiversity, ecosystems and other non-specific concepts are elevated to have an intrinsic value of their own completely separate from humans, who are considered to be apart from nature.

A brilliant farmer in Western Australia in a submission (full text below) opposing a land-use planning strategy being advanced by the state said it well:

“Everything agricultural is in permanent breach of the superior values — set by government agencies — of everything environmental.”

These lady bugs have as much right to this grass as your horses and cows do. You should pay for feed for your domesticated animals and leave this grass for the lady bugs who depend upon it -- in deference to the natural ecosystem which is core (by your own definition!) to your sustainability.

These lady bugs have as much right to this grass as your horses and cows do. You should pay for feed for your domesticated animals and leave this grass for the lady bugs who depend upon it — in deference to the natural ecosystem which is core (by your own definition!) to your sustainability.

Whatever the standards for “sustainability” end up looking like in our Quixotic quest to “prove” to Wal-Mart and McDonalds that we are sustainble, rest assured they will become the baseline for regulation at some point in the future.  WWF understands how this works.

Most are convinced that we must maintain our seat at the table.  Who knows what laws and regulations will be imposed upon us if we don’t have a seat!  The great irony is that it is our very presence at the table that allows our enemies to eviscerate us.  Without our sanction, we would not be their victims.

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I love ag.  In order for future generations to live, learn and love ag, we must re-focus on our own profitability, efficiency and productivity and stop being distracted by the people who are not really our customers anyway.

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Submission to the Western Australian Government

Regarding the Department of Planning’s “Wheatbelt Regional Land-Use Planning Strategy”

“My opinion is against an overdoing of any sort of administration and more especially against this most momentous of all meddling on the part of authority:  the meddling with the subsistence of the people.”  –Edmund Burke, 18th Century Statesman

Edmund Burke was well aware of the detrimental effects of government intervention in agriculture.  The WA Department of Planning is not possessed of so much humility.

Its comprehensive Wheatbelt Regional Land-Use Planning Strategy (WRLUPS, or the Strategy) incorporating planning principles for the environment, the community and the economy [emphasis added] of the Wheatbelt Region can only be implemented with a vast expansion of government power.

The proposed Strategy calls for unprecedented levels of regimentation and supervision of economic activity in the region.  WRLUPS assumes, without any evidence, that government possesses the knowledge, the information, and the analytical technology to make the multitudinous deficiencies existing in the region (and cited in the Strategy) better.

Also assumed is that the government has a cadre of experts in the planning agencies who are infallible, denuded of self interest, and who always act exclusively in the public interest.  To these qualities, we might add omniscience, as the Strategy is formulated as a response to the dire prophecies made by these very same selfless and objective officials.

On the one hand, the capacity for a positive outcome generated by government masterminding of economic development is vastly overestimated.  On the other, the role that individual initiative and private ownership of property has played in the development of the Wheatbelt since settlement is summarily dismissed.

If any economic tenet was discovered from the disasters of government intervention in agriculture during the 20th Century, it is that private property is necessary for efficiency in the production of economic value.

The objectives, strategies and actions foreshadowed by the Department of Planning in relation to the environment indicate that the glorification of nature is to be the central organising principle to which the needs and aspirations of the people of the Wheatbelt are to be subservient.

Everything agricultural is in permanent breach of the superior values — set by government agencies — of everything environmental.

We have already seen how this works in practice, with the destruction of the finances, reputations, and livelihoods of those unfortunate enough to be made examples of by the Department of Environment and Conservation.

Seen in this light, we observe that the proposed strategy is, in fact, a framework for a vast, uncompensated taking — a surreptitious erosion of private property rights.  It is collectivisation by stealth.  It has the effect of placing a restrictive covenant over all private land in the region, the covenant being that all development is prohibited unless specifically approved by the government agencies involved in the planning process.

The Strategy’s prophesies of population, production and climate change trends are being used to support artificial limits on growth in the Wheatbelt.  The population projections, for example, are actually quotas beyond which further growth will not be allowed.

Even worse, in our view, the planners’ intent is to remove people from the Wheatbelt one step at a time.  This will be done by restricting the provision of services, freezing the uses of land, drying up the tax base, removing all possibility of spontaneity and innovation not approved by the government and controlling where the population resides and how they live.

For decades, agricultural productivity in Western Australia has equalled or exceeded productivity gains in the economy as a whole.  For example, between 1950 and 1990, total factor agricultural productivity increased at a rate of 3.2% compounded annually.  In other words, productivity was more than doubling every 24 years.

Productivity improvements are a result of the adoption of new technology, better farming practices, higher levels of investment, more skilful management and the freedom to adapt to ever-changing circumstances and market requirements.  They are not indicative of excessive land degradation, salinisation, acidification, erosion, nutritional depletion or any of the other catastrophic environmental scenarios co-opted by the planning agents for their assault on private property.

Problems of soil degradation and other environmental matters arising on private property have to be — and are — addressed at the on-site level.  This necessity requires that the landowner has the incentive and means to act.  Subjecting the security of the farmer’s property (which is the intent of the planning strategy) to the arbitrary and capricious intervention of politics and bureaucracy is guaranteed to influence the farmer’s land management decisions in favour of short-term results.

The results of the planning Strategy will therefore be counter-productive in the long term, but will be evident long before 2031.  We are not optimistic that evidence of the failure of these policies will lead the authorities to remedy their mistakes.  Therefore it is imperative that this Strategy be subjected to far more scrutiny than it has been to date.

The assumptions upon which the Strategy is based need to be examined for credibility; for example, the adoption of Anthropogenic Global Warming theory and the subsequent adverse climate change forecast informing the policy.  There has been no warming for 15 years while carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has continued to increase.  Likewise, contrary to the planners’ assumption of an increasing rate of sea level rise, measures reveal it is actually slowing.

The planners now bemoan the alleged loss of biodiversity, but where were the infallible government masterminds when the successful purchase of a block was contingent on clearing all native vegetation?  Progress over time has led to an ever-smaller proportion of the population producing the food that allows a vastly greater number of people to live in the city.  Ironically, this success is taken for granted by many, including the theoreticians in the Department of Planning.  Presuming production will continue to advance in a timeless and automatic fashion, they wield a free hand in imposing their aesthetic considerations on rural Western Australians.

The supposed integration of social, environmental and economic values by the coercive intervention of Government has serious negative implications for the people of the Wheatbelt and for the potential of agricultural production in Western   Australia.

Rational policy in agriculture begins with (and has done since settlement) a system of secure property rights and predictable law.  The WRLUPS undermines property security and makes the law more hazardous and uncertain.  It is therefore not in the interest of agriculture or of society.

With this in mind, the PGA encourages an urgent, independent review of the rationale behind the development of the Strategy.

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