Feb 012014
 

sheppartonAustralia’s state government of Victoria has pledged $25 million in subsidy to Coca-Cola/Amatil to keep the SPC/Ardona produce cannery open in Shepparton. The federal government refused to match the funds to meet Coca-Cola’s demands. But even if the factory stay open for another period, with the farmers dependent on short-term contracts from the factory, their farms are insecure and their future precarious. Without domestic production, Australians become dependent on imported produce and global market prices.

Here are 25 ways the state government could spend that money which would contribute to the long-term security of farmers, farmland, domestic food supply, and distributed infrastructure.

  1. Provide education, training, and financial resources to help farmers convert to sustainable agriculture so they can offer a superior product to Australian consumers while protecting the ecosystem and reducing greenhouse gasses caused by petrochemical production and fossil-fuel based agriculture.
  2. Fund regional ecological agriculture extension agents, facilities, collaborations between universities and farmers.
  3. Help farmers diversify their production, which protects soil, insulates from pests, and decreases farmers’ dependency on single buyers.
  4. Help farmers set up regional Community Supported Agriculture programs to enable consumers to have direct relationships with farms.
  5. Educate consumers about the superior healthfulness and flavor of fresh, ripe foods over processed and stored foods.
  6. Run an “eat Australian” campaign.
  7. Require state institutions (schools, hospitals, prisons, elder care facilities…) to serve fresh Australian produce, purchased direct from Australian farmers.
  8. Offer training program for public and private sector procurement officers in contracting systems that will work for small and mid-scale farmers.
  9. Pay chefs to train cooks at institutions on how to make the most of fresh unprocessed foods.
  10. Dedicate transport infrastructure to assisting farmers in direct marketing to population centers.
  11. Fund non-profit brokers to create direct relationships between farmers and restaurants.
  12. Create a certification scheme available to all restaurants whereby they can acquire a symbol indicating they serve only Australian produce, processed fresh on premises.
  13. Create a certification scheme for all food retailers whereby they can acquire a symbol indicating that 75% or more of their produce is Australian-grown.
  14. Work with Centerlink to provide vegetable boxes, cooking classes, babyfood-making classes to low-income families to improve nutrition.
  15. Build incubators for new food entrepreneurs, providing access to certified kitchens for value-added processing of artisan foods, plus marketing and distribution assistance.
  16. Create regional demonstration farms for agroecology and sustainable living to interest young people in farming.
  17. Help large farms scale down to higher-value intensive cropping, provide funding to new farmers to help with setup costs.
  18. Analyze the Australian food system and fund development of crops currently imported.
  19. Create regional food policy councils to analyze the foodshed, promote regional foods, and ensure that what can be grown locally is eaten locally.
  20. Create urban composting programs to return nutrients to regional farms.
  21. Create a national internship program to fund young ecowarriors to assist farmers in transition. They can especially help with new marketing tasks involved in direct marketing (driving to farmers markets, manning farmers market stands, contacting restaurants to arrange direct contracts, doing community outreach regarding new sources of fresh food, cooking classes, etc.)
  22. Facilitate the development of regional farmer-owned cooperatives for small-scale produce processing and marketing.
  23. Create a genre of regional food festivals aimed at lower and middle-income consumers, Good Food for All, Taste for the Rest of Us…
  24. Send celebrity chefs on a national tour to promote local foods by setting up pop-up restaurants and teaching cooking classes for chefs and consumers to generate loyalty to quality Australian produce.
  25. Create an Asian food task force to educate farmers about Asian produce and to create networks between Australian Asian restaurants and food retailers and Australian farmers.