Jacques Cheminade: Drought -- Let's Cut the Grass Out From Under the Feet of the Speculators
June 4, 2011 • 4:18PM

Jacques Cheminade is a French Presidential candidate, on the ticket of the Solidarité et Progrès party. His original statement is available at http://www.solidariteetprogres.org/ Secheresse-Coupons-l-herbe-sous-les-pieds-des-speculateurs_07777

Earthquakes in Japan, tornadoes in the United States, flooding in Canada and exceptional drought in China, in Texas, and in Europe, our planet is everywhere being wracked by phenomena whose violence is growing.

In France, the drought which is rife, is already far worse than those of 1949 and 1976. It is added to the disastrous consequences of an agriculture policy, which, by having penalized producers now for several years, is preventing them from building up reserves of their finances, of fodder, and of seed.

I. Immediately, Four Emergency Measures Must Be Implemented

This is an issue of breaking speculation which has grabbed farm production and created shortages, and this not simply by limiting damages by promising some indemification from the facilities of the treasury or alms.

1. Emergency feed for animals: For this, beyond solidarity between those who grow the grain and the those who raise the livestock, the state must, should the need arise, requisition hay and straw and fully subsidize its purchase by producers. An important detail: The state and regions must take charge of rail and truck transport all the way to the farm.

2. Priority for irrigation: Restrain water use by the golf courses, leisure centers, and watering flower gardens as much as necessary. Water reserves must be prioritized for crops.

3. Freeze on biofuels: The state must block all transformation of cereals into biofuels, especially wheat and maize corn. This production is reserved for livestock feed. If necessary, certain exports can also be revised downward toward this end. This measure will not inflame world prices if it is accompanied by anti-speculation measures, as we will specify.

4. Finance: Cleaning Out the Augean Stables: Separate the investment banks from savings and deposit banks (Global Glass-Steagall). Speculation on agricultural products by exchange-traded funds (ETFs, trackers with the effect of financial leverage) is prohibited. Is it not intolerable that a bank such as Crédit Agricole (not to name that alone), which makes a big show of generosity, offering the facilities of its coffers to the victims of drought, should continue, via Amundi[fn1], to speculate on agricultural prices? As long as nothing is being done to stop this game, all the declarations of our leaders remain hypocrisy at best, treachery at worst.

II. Food Sovereignty

Starting tomorrow, we must rethink farm policy on the absolute principle of food sovereignty, in uprooting the Malthusian power of the enviro-speculators.

1. Infrastructure: We must immediately invest in the creation of artificial lakes, irrigation canals, and dams, putting water at the disposal of agriculture, and also for "stocking" for energy. Since the drought of 2003, we found that, in capturing solely an additional 1% or 2% of the annual rainfall, what happened could have been avoided. That means turning back from the current logic, since maintenance on this infrastructure, about to be privatized, wasn't kept up. Farming is a profession of the future, therefore it must be given the means and allowed to improve the tools of its production. Under these conditions, reinforced cooperation between the National Center of Space Studies (CNES) and the National Institute for Agronomic Research (INRA), by gaining better comprehension of soils and the interaction between cosmic radiation and life, will allow for optimized use of water, especially in developing more resistant varieties, using satellite guidance for targetted irrigation, or even understanding the technique of drip irrigation.

2. Regulated Markets: Rather than pushing our producers to hedge themselves against price volatilities with financial derivatives traded on over-the-counter markets by "dark pools," the time has both in producing countries and also "recurrent" importing countries, in particular in the Maghreb, to reestablish public stockpiles for intervention, either by countries or geographic zones. This was the case with the beginning of the Common Market Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) or under Franklin Roosevelt, an intelligent management of public stockpiles, allowing limitation of physical shortages, and to break, via public buying and selling, speculative takeoff. Remember that the "financial hedge products" created a reinsurance expense at a global cost of close to EU40 per ton of cereals, effectively sold at the end of the cycle, whereas the cost to stockpile a ton of cereals was no more than EU10 a year in a silo of a farming cooperative in France.

3. Forecasting Tools: To invest in weather forecasting methods (especially by satellite) and push ahead with studies on the consequences of the position of our planet within the major cycles of the Solar System and beyond (solar maximum, biodiversity cycles, etc.).

4. Global Productive Credit: In the context of a new international order based on productive public credit and not on monetarist gambling, we need to have a global observatory for consumption of agricultural stocks. Putting an end to the scandalous neocolonialist stampede for arable lands, price agreements ought to be established for the benefit of the needs of the physical economy and not the markets.

In conclusion, the challenge of feeding 9-12 billion human beings in 2050 begins with putting into question the financial madness that has ruled the world for more than 40 years, replacing it with a world order founded on joint projects and priority given to human invention.

The agricultural question is the key to opening the door to the future. It is tied to space exploration, for it is by looking from above and understanding the effects of solar and galactic phenomena, that we can best organize production on Earth. Let us not leave agriculture in the hands of greedy interests attached to possession and not to production.

In order to find the grass, we have to cut it out from under the feet of the speculators!

FN 1. Amundi Asset Management, a partnership of Crédit Agricole and Société Générale.