25 July 2005

Say hello to 40 bucks a turnip

Taking a leaf from the ongoing trend for promoting the most abysmal ideas in public policy proven ludicrous in other places, Federation of Agriculture head Merv Wiseman is calling on government to legislate a guaranteed minimum floor price for agricultural products.

Merv wants to implement Soviet agricultural policies in the 21st century. Way to go there buddy.

Where do I begin to explain to Comrade Commissar Wiseman the folly of his idea?

First of all, the Uruguay round of the General Agreement on tariffs and Trade is busily working to get rid of this sort of protectionism/marketing combines that do nothing but stick it to consumers.

Ask John Crosbie about protectionism like this. All it does is cause local consumers to pay through the nose, much like we do with gasoline prices thanks to people like Tovarische Doktor O'Keefe.

Since Wiseman admits that local agriculture covers only 10% of local demand, local farmers would actually be pumping more cash out of the province to mainland suppliers, if their floor price policy was applied fairly across the sector.

Second of all, Wiseman is making the call because of changes in the retail grocery business that have wiped out some of the local farmers' retail outlets - but farmers have done squat to help themselves.

Merv and his buddies need to explore what other small business have explored in the face of competition. Try going directly to the consumer at the farmers' market or through an outlet like the Lester's Market on Brookfield Road.

Wiseman acknowledges that his members are getting squeezed on prices by having these middlemen, yet at no point in the CBC story linked above does Comrade Merv think that maybe, just maybe the farmers should help themselves before asking me and the government to bail them out.

Wiseman in following in what is becoming a depressing local tradition. Everyone from Brian Dobbin to bits of the local oil industry (as in the Wells nomination) to the fisheries crowd (especially the Hunter/Gatherers Union) to the gas-price-fixers all seem to think that turning this place into a museum of stupid ideas that never worked anywhere else is somehow a good idea.

Oooh. Ooooh.

I've got a great idea. Why don't we run the entire province according to one giant central plan. We will have everything owned by the state and each month you can get your rations of everything. Ok, so the Soviet Union was a giant misery pit, but maybe things will be different here.

After all we are unique in Newfoundland.

Put another, less sarcastic way, some business operators and other people seem to think that it is the duty of government to prop them up at whatever cost to people like me and you.

Get a grip, Merv. I have much better things to do with public money, like helping people keep heat in their houses next winter, than coming up with some plan to fix the price of turnips.

Heck, Merv I can grow carrots, potatoes, turnip, parsnip, cabbage, beets and strawberries in my backyard for little more than the cost of my labour, as my parents do now and as my grandparents did for almost seventy years before that.

What will Merv want to do next, toss granny in the clink for breaking his strangle hold on local rhubarb production?