[05/28/10] MST Informa #184: Policy Platform for Brazilian Agriculture

World transformations in recent years have resulted in the centralization of capital accumulation in the financial sphere and for transnational corporations. These transformations have had serious consequences and resulted in growing conflicts between two worlds of agricultural production. The capitalist model is one of an alliance between large landowners, transnational business and the financial system. The businesses supply inputs, buy materials, control the market and fix the prices of agricultural products. Large landowners (nearly 40,000 that possess more than 1,000 hectares (2,200 acres)) seize land, destroy biodiversity and over-exploit their workers, all in order to divide up between themselves the profits gained from businesses. This is the agribusiness model. It adopts monocultural agricultural production in order to increase the scale of production with the intensive use of pesticides and heavy machinery. Furthermore, agribusiness increases the concentration of land ownership. The 2006 census revealed that the concentration of land is greater now than what it was in 1920. We propose another agricultural model, one that prioritizes diversified production, the use of machinery that is appropriate for small land holdings, and based on agroindustrual cooperation with agroecolgical techniques. Instead of prioritizing profits for big business and landowners, we must respect the environmental equilibrium, produce healthy food, supply for the internal market and bring together producers and consumers. Our popular agrarian reform proposal adopts this model. It is not merely about redistributing land to those without it. What is at stake is the organization of Brazilian agriculture. This not only concerns disputes between family farmers and landless workers with large landowners and agribusiness. We hope that society understands the differences between the two agricultural models. We defend development for rural populations, yet a kind of development that protects the environment and results in the production of healthy food. Agribusiness is incapable of guaranteeing these objectives. It is necessary, as elections draw near, to check the positions of the candidates. Below we present a platform for Brazilian agriculture that is defended by the member movements of La Via Campesina. POLICY PLATFORM FOR BRAZILIAN AGRICULTURE The current agricultural model imposed on Brazil by the forces of capital and big business is harmful to the interests of the people. This model commodifies everything: food and natural goods (like water, land, biodiversity and seeds). It establishes itself with the sole aim of increasing profits for big business, transnational corporations and banks. We urgently need to construct an agricultural model that is based on the continuing search for a society that is more just and equal, and that produces necessities that establish equilibrium with the environment. With these objectives in mind, we have made some considerations and invite the Brazilian people to reflect on and decide which is the agricultural model they want for our country. 1—THE NATURE OF THE CURRENT AGRICULTURAL MODEL The current agricultural model, known as agribusiness, has the following characteristics: 1.The organization of agricultural production under the control of large landowners and transnational business, which exploits farm workers and dominates production, commercialization, the market for inputs and seeds. 2.The prioritization of large scale, extensive monocultural production. Monoculture negatively affects the environment through the use of large quantities of pesticides that damage the health and quality of food. Brazil consumes more than a billion liters of pesticides a year, making it the largest consumer in the world! 3.The organization of monocultures in the rain forest, for example in the cultivation of eucalyptus and pine trees. This destroys the environment, biodiversity and land, as well as creating extensive unemployment by focusing on producing for export. Profit remains in the hands of the transnational corporations and results in social and environmental degradation. 4.The creation of incentives to increase the production of sugar cane production for ethanol, for export. Recently, this has degraded the environment, raised the price of food, further concentrated land ownership and denationalized sugar and alcohol production. 5.The diffusion of the use of genetically modified seeds. This destroys biodiversity and eliminates our native seeds. Genetically modified seeds do not coexist with other varieties and contaminate them resulting in only the survival of those seeds that are owned by transnational corporations. With the control of seeds, these businesses receive royalties from farmers, sell pesticides from their own industries and pressure the government to adopt policies that suit their interests. 6.The creation of incentives to deforest the Amazon and destroy palm oil trees through the expansion of farming, soy, eucalyptus and sugar cane production for export. We are against the law that authorizes the private exploitation of national forests. CONCERNING THE GRAVITY OF THE SITUATION, TO BRAZILIAN SOCIETY, WE DENOUNCE: 1.The agribusiness model that protects the exploitation of slave and child labor, as well as the over-exploitation of rural workers, without guaranteeing labor rights, social security, the minimal conditions for transportation and the means to secure a livelihood on farms. For this reason, the congressional rural bloc never voted for the project that would have penalized landowners who employ slave labor, even after it had passed in the senate. 2. The law proposed by senator Sergio Zambiasi (PTB-RS/Brazilian Labor Party-Rio Grande do Sul) that intends to loosen the prohibition on foreign entities to own property on the border of the country, and regularize illegal land holdings. Emblematic cases being Stora Enso and Moon. 3.The construction projects on the San Francisco River that are intended to benefit agribusiness, hydroelectric interests and export agriculture through expanding sugar cane production in the northeast. These projects do not serve the needs of the millions of peasants who live in the region near the river. 4.The growing privatization of water companies by businesses, in many cases foreign, such as Nestle, Coca-Cola and Suez amongst others. 5.The current energy model that prioritizes large hydroelectric plants, principally in the Amazon, and transforms energy into a commodity. Privatization destroys the environment, increases time and time again the taxes the Brazilian people pay for electricity, privileges the largest consumers of such electricity and hands over control of energy to large multinational corporations. These processes put national sovereignty at risk. 6.The attempts to modify the current laws concerning the rain forest that are proposed by the rural bloc and that serve agribusiness by authorizing deforestation in the search for quick and easy profit. 7.The joint activities among transnational businesses, false environmental entities and certain governments in the Northern hemisphere who want to transform the environment into a mere commodity. Also, the introduction on the stock market of tradable carbon credits and stocks--including the ability for Northern polluting businesses to be tax exempt--in order to generate the opportunity for Southern businesses to gain profit, while those that harm the environment continue to operate freely. 8.The policies that privatize the right to fish, destroy the equilibrium with nature in the rivers and the sea, all the while destroying the livelihoods of small fishermen who are in the millions in Brazil. 9.The recent law that legalizes illegal land holding (grilagem). This law regularizes land holdings of upwards of 1500 hectares (3,300 acres) that have been invaded in the Amazon (before, area only up to 100 hectares (220 acres) was able to be legalized). We are against the law proposed by senator Flexa Ribeiro (PSDB-PA/ Brazilian Social Democratic Party/ Pará) that would reduce the amount of land to be held in reserve in the Amazon on each land holding from 80% to 50%. II – WE PROPOSE A NEW PROGRAM FOR BRAZILIAN AGRICULTURE A program which would be founded on the following principles: 1. Implement a farming and irrigation policy which prioritizes our country’s food sovereignty, promotes the production of healthy food, the diversification of agriculture, Agrarian Reform as a sweeping democratization of land ownership, the distribution of income produced through agriculture, and the preservation of Brazil’s rural population. 2. Prevent the concentration of private ownership of land, forests, and water. Make a wide distribution of the largest estates, instituting a maximum size limit on the ownership of natural resources. 3. Ensure that Brazilian agriculture is controlled by Brazilians and that it is based on the production of healthy food and the formation of agribusinesses in the form of cooperatives in every district in the country. 4. Incentivize diversified production in the form of polyculture, giving priority to peasant production. 5. Adopt production techniques that seek to increase the productivity of labor and land while respecting the environment and agroecology. Progressively combat the use of agrochemicals which contaminate food and the environment. 6. Adopt the production of cellulose in small units, without extensive monoculture, seeking to meet Brazil’s needs with small agribusinesses. 7. Defend the “zero deforestation policy” in the Amazon and the Cerrado, preserving the natural wealth of those regions and using resources in a responsible manner which benefits the people who live there. Defend the collective right to exploit babassu palms. 8. Preserve, disseminate, and multiply native and improved seeds, in accordance with our climate and ecosystems, so that all farmers have equal access. 9. Rigorously penalize all businesses and landholders who deforest and pollute the environment. 10. Implement the methods proposed by the National Water Agency (Atlas Northeast) which recommends works and investments in each municipality of the semi-arid region, which would solve the water problem for all peasants and for the resident population of the region at a low cost. 11. Ensure that water as a natural resource be freely accessible to all citizens. It cannot be a commodity and must be managed as a public good, accessible to all. We advocate a program to preserve our aquifers, such as the sources for the three major basins in the Cerrado, the Guaraní aquifer, and the most recent discovery of the Alter do Chão aquifer, in the Amazon region. 12. Implement a new popular energy project for the country, based on energy sovereignty and guaranteeing the control of energy and its sources are under the control of the Brazilian people. Promote all forms of energy sources, giving priority to local capabilities and to popular use. In addition, demand the immediate review of current electricity tariffs charged to the population, ensuring access for all at prices appropriate to the income of the Brazilian people. 13. Regularize all Quilombolo lands in the entire country. 14. Prohibit the purchase of Brazilian land by transnational companies and their “useful idiots,” rather than by family units. 15. Immediately define the borders of all indigenous areas and impose the withdrawal of invading farmers, particularly in the Guaraní areas of Mato Grasso do Sul. 16. Promote the defense of public agriculture policies by the government, guaranteeing: a) Priority to the production of food for the internal market; b) Profitable prices for small farmers, guaranteeing purchase by the National Provision Company (CONAB); c) A new rural credit policy, especially for investment in small and medium-sized farms; d) A research policy for the Brazilian Agricultural Research Company (EMBRAPA) defined according to the needs of peasants and the production of healthy food; e) Conformance with sanitary regulations of agro-industrial production for the conditions of peasant agriculture and small agro-industry, expanding the possibilities of food production; f) Public agricultural policies that are appropriate to regional variations; 17. Guarantee the maintenance of the public, universal, supportive, and redistributive character of social security in Brazil, as a guarantee to all agricultural workers. Guarantee the social welfare budget and the expansion of social rights to all workers, including informal and domestic workers. 18. Review the current model of individual transport, and develop a national program of mass transit that gives priority to rail networks, subways, and waterways, which use less energy, create less pollution, and are more accessible to the entire population. 19. Guarantee education in the countryside, implementing a broad education program in rural areas, appropriate to the realities of each region, which seeks to elevate the peasants’ level of social consciousness and grant universal access to all levels of education, especially high school and college. Develop a massive literacy campaign for adults. 20. Reform the international agreements of the World Trade Organization (WTO), European Union-Mercosur, and the conventions and conferences of the United Nations, which only defend the interests of international capital, of free trade, to the detriment of peasants and the people of the south. 21. Pass a law to require the expropriation of any plantation that uses slave labor. Impose heavy fines on farms that do not respect labor and welfare laws. Repeal the law that permits temporary casual employment of rural workers without formal contracts. For work, healthy food, environmental conservation, a new agricultural model, and national sovereignty! Brazilian Association for Students of Forest Engineering (Associação Brasileira dos Estudantes de Engenharia Florestal – ABEEF) Indigenous Missionary Council (Conselho Indigenista Missionário – CIMI) Pastoral Land Commission (Comissão Pastoral da Terra – CPT) Federation of Agronomy Students of Brazil (Federação dos Estudantes de Agronomia do Brasil – FEAB) Movement of Dam-Affected People (Movimento dos Atingidos por Barragens – MAB) Movement of Small Farmers (Movimento dos Pequenos Agricultores – MPA) Movement of Peasant Women (Movimento das Mulheres Camponesas – MMC) Landless Rural Workers Movement (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra – MST) Pastoral of Rural Youth (Pastoral da Juventude Rural – PJR) Movement of Fishermen and Fisherwomen of Brazil (Movimento dos Pescadores e Pescadoras do Brasil)