By Jorge Enrique Robledo
To close his administration with a flourish, the government of Andrés Pastrana is about to present to Congress the General Rural Law Project, which seeks to consolidate the anti-agrarian tendencies defined by neoliberalism since 1990.
The project states that agricultural production will adapt to "the dynamics of globalized markets", an orientation that implies, and so it is said in the explanatory memorandum, to give up producing what can be imported at lower prices than domestic production (wheat , rice, corn, sugar, potatoes, milk, meat, eggs, vegetables and in general the basic diet of the nation) and specialize the country in tropical export crops (coffee, bananas, cocoa, African palm, that is, the goods which are not part of the main diet of humanity), whose international prices also tend to decline due to their oversupply. It is obvious that this policy marries Colombia's entry into Alca, because tropical crops are those that due to the climate cannot be produced in the temperate zones of the earth, where the United States is located.
Consequently, the project is shameless by not defining Food Security as the policy of producing food for the forty million Colombians in the national territory, but rather as the need to offer cheap food - even if it is imported - to the poor of the country and that large sectors of the peasantry survive in the misery of the plots of self-consumption. With cheap and "social" demagoguery, they want to hide that they are trying to subject Colombia to whatever the countries and transnationals want to impose on them, from which they have to buy the basic diet of the nation.
In addition, and while the United States has just approved a law on subsidies for its agriculture that increases them by at least 18 billion dollars annually, here they want one that says that only crop insurance can be subsidized and that establishes that official measures of "price stabilization" may not
This occurs when the internal prices of the products are higher than the external ones plus the import costs, which means that even the meager subsidy of 30 thousand pesos per load that coffee growers receive should disappear.
On the other hand, the entire project is written in the most hirsute privatizing spirit. It proposes to sell existing irrigation districts to private companies; It seeks to hand over to private contractors a good part of the State's responsibilities for agriculture; points out that the government will only be able to support the construction of irrigation districts, roads and electrification in rural areas "up to" 40 percent of its costs, which means that it could contribute nothing; It hands over the monopoly of agricultural research to a small group of handpicked "mixed" corporations, which are not guaranteed adequate financing either; pushes the privatization of basic education in the countryside; affirms that credits for the sector should have rates equal to or very similar to commercial ones; and it even calls for "deepening and energizing the land market," which should be understood as raising property taxes on farms and plots. It even eliminates the Institute for Land Adequacy (INAT), the DRI and the Incora and threatens the management of parafiscal resources.
This grotesque also makes demagoguery that the future of agriculture will also rest on the country's biodiversity, which may be complementary to the increase in land that will be left in stubble due to specialization in tropical crops, but in spite of this neither defines a strategy to take advantage of the great national biological diversity. What it does do is open the door for the signing of "association agreements or ecosystem concession contracts to international companies", even though it recognizes that "at present these contracts are not very beneficial for the countries that have the resources."
Obviously, there is an urgent need for the greatest unity of all the organizations of the agricultural sector, and of the entire nation, in demanding that this bill not even be presented to Congress.
* Jorge Enrique Robledo