Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Paid for not producing food

According to a news item in today's Times (and other papers):
"The scale of handouts from Brussels that line the pockets of some of the country's richest people, including the Queen and the Prince of Wales, was exposed for the first time yesterday.
The biggest landowners, including members of the Royal Family, a clutch of dukes, and agrifood companies, are able to pick up hefty amounts of cash under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
Tate & Lyle topped the payments league with more than £127 million, while Farmcare Ltd, a subsidiary of the Co-operative Group, received the most in direct farm handouts. The company was paid a total of £2,601,757.
The Queen received £545,897 for farming interests on her Sandringham House and Windsor Castle estates, and the Prince of Wales received £134,938 for his Duchy of Cornwall estate and £90,527 for the Duchy Home Farm on his Highgrove estate.
The Duke of Westminster, ranked second in The Sunday Times Rich List, was also paid £448,472 for his 6,000-acre estate through Grosvenor Farms Ltd.
All the payments were made during the financial year 2003-04 -- the most recent for which figures are available. "
The figures are totals for all the subsidies paid to landowners and agribusinesses (Tate & Lyle, for instance, is paid "compensation" for having to sell sugar at a lower price on the world market), but those to landowners include payments under the notorious "set-aside" scheme under which, in a world where billions are starving, farmers are paid NOT to produce food.
If you want to claim money for not growing food, information, and forms, can be found on the site of the Department for the Environment, Fisheries and Rural Affairs at http://www.defra.gov.uk/farm/schemes/aap_sa.htm
But be warned, you have to be what the ministry calls a "large farmer"; in fact the larger you are the more you'll get. Which is why the list of CAP subsidy scroungers contains so many dukes, earls and marquesses, whose antecedents were able, in one way or another (some came over with William the Conqueror, others were the offspring of Charles II's mistresses) to appropriate large tracts of land
This is flagrant evidence of what socialists have always said about capitalism: it puts profits before meeting human needs. The set-aside scheme aims to restrict production so as to maintain prices at a profitable level. There is no profit to be made out of producing food for people who can't afford to pay for it. So, production is limited, by "set-aside" and "land bank" schemes, to what can be sold at a profit. In other words, capitalism solves the problem of poverty amongst plenty, not by distributing the plenty to the poor but by taking measures to prevent the plenty being produced in the first place.
In a world geared to meeting human needs, such as socialism will be, food would be produced to feed people and would go on being produced it until every man, woman and child on the planet is properly fed. This is technically possible today but is prevented from happening by the profit system.

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