Nanny State

E.U.=U.S.S.R.?

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moo

Since Poland joined the E.U. two years ago, small, traditional farmers have struggled to adapt to laws originally written with more advanced farming cultures in mind:

European law requires farms to have concrete floors in their barns and special equipment for slaughtering. Hygiene laws prohibit milking cows by hand. As a result, the milk collection stations and tiny slaughterhouses that until a few years ago dotted the Polish countryside have all closed. Small family farming is impossible.

In the U.S. we have libertarian Virginia farmer Joel Salatin (a hero in the very popular "eat local" manifesto Omnivore's Dilemma) voicing many of the same complaints in his own book Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal. But in Poland, such squabbles are supercharged by the country's Communist history.

Mr. Mann, from the European Commission, acknowledges that small farmers in places like Poland may have to adapt. "There is a place for the small farmer," he said, "but they have to be smart and not rely on payouts."

But deft adaptation seems hard here, a place set in its ways — and may be bad for the environment anyway. A collective system for selling organic vegetables to the city, devised by Ms. [Jadwiga] Lopata, never got off the ground.

"They tend to be very individualistic," she said. "They think they survived Communist efforts to collectivize them, so they will survive this. They don't realize the European Union and the global market are even harder."

This situation perfectly illustrates the mixed feelings I have about the local/organic movement and its relationship with the state. On one hand, I hate that farmers who just want to do their own thing are being pressured and punished in the name of efficiency by a super-state entity. Why not let people milk cows by hand, for goodness sake?

On the other hand, the local/organic movement is rife with people who think the right response to current pressure by the state and from the market is collectivization (this after surviving Communism!) and perhaps a nice dose of state subsidy.

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  1. Caption Contest!

    “Geez, this bull is taking forever.”

    “Jimmy, I found your retainer!”

    “I wonder what happens when I tie two of these together?”

  2. Back in the USSR . . you don’t know how lucky you are

  3. The whole eat local idea is all fine and dandy unless it’s December and you live in St Paul.

  4. I’m not sure about EU==USSR, but I think this is an example of what Jonah Goldberg calls Liberal Fascism. It’s not that the EU is necessarily evil, its that they believe in ever increasing top-down government “beneficial” authoritarianism. Concrete floors are good? Mandate! Mechanized cow-milking is more sanitary? Mandate!

  5. Why not let people milk cows by hand, for goodness sake?

    Because it’s Europe, silly.

  6. In Pennsylvania, around Center Hall, Amish dairy farmers were put in a similar situation decades ago. They had to modernize their milking operations (with electricity), or resign themselves to laws that said if they didn’t modernize, their milk could not be sold for human consumption. They went the electricity route. Not in their houses or outbuildings, of course, just the milking barns.

  7. “The whole eat local idea is all fine and dandy unless it’s December and you live in St Paul.”

    Why not eat squirrels and freeze-dried grubworms like St. Paulites do the rest of the year?

  8. On the other hand, the local/organic movement is rife with people who think the right response to current pressure by the state and from the market is collectivization (this after surviving Communism!) and perhaps a nice dose of state subsidy.

    You might want to dig deeper. I think I read about the “collective” before and it was more on the lines of a voluntary co-op of the kind widely used by American farmers to share resources like cotton gins which are to expensive for one family farm to maintain. There’s no problem with people voluntarily joining together to foster their independent goals.

    Assuming the E.U. would let them, they could create a niche for themselves selling products raised on old fashion family farms. Even in Europe, there is a lot of romanticism about small farms and a lot of people might pay a premium such food.

    The Polish farmers probably never thought of it because it never occurred to them that anyone would be that rich or that stupid.

  9. Don’t they have states rights in Europe?

    Like we used to?

  10. I was in Poland about 4 years ago, the people I talked to all seemed to have the same opinion that the current system is worse than under communism. Not that they liked communism but that the current system is so corrupt. The only way you could get a job was by bribing the employer and the more important the job the larger the bribe had to be. Which meant that only well off people could get a good job. Let’s hope things have improved or will in the future.

  11. What Shannon Love said.

    Co-ops are not “collectivization” in the Soviet sense. They are voluntary associations.

    As far as pressure from “the market”: this pisses me off. There is no such thing as a global ag market. There are competing national monopolies that cheat through subsidies.

    For example: grape growers in my state have created an industry out of nothing, despite the fact that almost everything they do is illegal, they have fought with the state and large enterprises from the beginning, and they couldn’t even get crop insurance for 10 years. SO — if those people say the want subsidies in order to compete in “the market” (which they DON’T), I’m not going to be the one to tell them that they are the a-holes.

  12. “On the other hand, the local/organic movement is rife with people who think the right response to current pressure by the state and from the market is collectivization”

    no its not.

  13. It’s been a while since I lived in Poland, but one of the things they stressed then was the intractability of the agriculture (peasant) sector. Polish farms are more than just small, they’re near-microscopic. Especially in southern Poland, traditional peasant systems of property division remain, leading to little fields that are basically 50-yard strips hardly wide enough to run a tractor and harrow on.

    So, ironically, the EU regulations are doing what the market would do were Polish farmers fully exposed to it: bringing home the fact that the farms are simply too small to be competitive.

    It’s more than an academic question, though, because much like France, the Polish Peasant Party is powerful enough to cause serious political trouble for whichever government is in power. They were pessimistic it was a solvable problem.

    I did theorize at the time that the Polish government, despite running from wacky-right to the Communists with a different name, was so uniformly pro-internationalist because it gave them a great excuse to do the kinds of reforms they knew were necessary anyway. “Don’t blame us, it’s the IMF!” Of course, they can only do it to the extent they don’t dredge up too much nativism and lose the loincloth of the EU, which they all know would spell disaster and result in Poland becoming a vassal of the New Russian Empire.

  14. The only way you could get a job was by bribing the employer and the more important the job the larger the bribe had to be.

    Replace “employer” with “apparatchik”, and this strikes me as a fair description of communism.

  15. Of course, they can only do it to the extent they don’t dredge up too much nativism and lose the loincloth of the EU, which they all know would spell disaster and result in Poland becoming a vassal of the New Russian Empire.

    The EU can’t do a damn thing about Russian imperial ambitions. Its NATO that keeps Poland Polish these days.

  16. “What Communism didn’t kill, the EU will.” What a great bumper sticker for Europe.

  17. In Pennsylvania, around Center Hall, Amish dairy farmers were put in a similar situation decades ago. They had to modernize their milking operations (with electricity), or resign themselves to laws that said if they didn’t modernize, their milk could not be sold for human consumption.

    …. because, the government figured, people are too stupid to know what they are buying.

    Or, being cynical, the local farmers pushed for these regulations in order to stamp out *competing* businesses, including the Amish.

    I figured that what the EU does is to protect their own farmers by imposing these silly regulations. Maybe these small farms will end up joining in co-ops in order to compete, but that would be a result of market forces. What would be the difference, however, between forced collectivization and being forced through regulations? Both reek of the same thing: Central Planning and conceit, but state bureaucrats. Or fascism, ti put it more succinctly.

  18. It’s the E.U.S.S.R. I just wait for this totalitarian bureaucrats to close the borders and establish new GuLags …

    Greetings from a libertarian from the European Socialist Sowjet Repbulic of Germany!

  19. “They tend to be very individualistic,” she said. “They think they survived Communist efforts to collectivize them, so they will survive this.

    Truer words never spoken.

  20. If the Poles want the benefits of EU membership, such as going to the rest of the EU to work for higher wages without restrictions, they have to accept the disbenefits of producing their goods, including agricultural produce, to the same hygene standards as the rest of the EU. Dairy products from Poland are on sale in other parts of the Union in competition with others who are complying with EU laws.

  21. @julian:
    Why the heck can’t they set whatever standards they like and sell their products on that basis? I think there are plenty of people around who would just love the idea of milk labelled “lovingly caressed from a cow’s udder by a Polish milkmaid sitting on a rickety wooden stool on an ancient timber floor” and would probably pay 10 bucks a liter for the stuff.

  22. I dont know why the Eastern European countries wanted to join the EU, other than their elites wanting to hop on it’s gravy train. Most of the ex-Communist countries have implemented Free Market policies and have economies that are growing faster than the stagnent welfare states in the West. Entering the EU will bring in a ton of red tape that will strangle this growth.

  23. The EU can’t do a damn thing about Russian imperial ambitions. Its NATO that keeps Poland Polish these days. he wrote, beating his chest.

  24. I dont know why the Eastern European countries wanted to join the EU, other than their elites wanting to hop on it’s gravy train.

    Why? Because

    Poles want the benefits of EU membership, such as going to the rest of the EU to work for higher wages without restrictions

    That’s why. There are plenty of Germans, French, etc. who would be just as happy if the Poles and the rest would just go (the hell) home. Kind of like the dynamic between many Americans and the Mexicans.

  25. Free Movement of Goods and People between States is the ONLY good thing about the EU. But the price of these benefits is too much when it comes to the centralisation of power and undermining of national sovereignty by the corrupt EU Commission.

  26. I have a feeling in the fututre all these Eastern European countries will realize way too late that they have traded one oppressive empire for another. Just for short term economic gain.

  27. Travis nails it right there.

    JB: If you make those, I’ll buy one. Or 10.

  28. Free Movement of Goods and People between States is the ONLY good thing about the EU.

    And for a long time it was all we knew about it. Remember when we used to call it the Common Market?

  29. The whole eat local idea is all fine and dandy unless it’s December and you live in St Paul.

    What’s wrong with eating cabbage for 2 or 3 months?

  30. @T Bishop Finger:
    “I dont know why the Eastern European countries wanted to join the EU, other than their elites wanting to hop on it’s gravy train.”

    Because if you’re not in EU, you have to deal with “export compensations” (meaning: export subsidies), still have to obey all the EU rules if you want to export to EU, and have no say when those rules are changed.

    Have you ever wandered why it’s only Rumania and Bulgaria that have their bird products exports suspended each winter, even if they find the “bird flu” (whatever “bird flu” means … probably something parallel with “mammalian flu”, or “fish disease”) virus in every damn EU country from Poland to England ? Ever wondered why only UK had to slaughter it’s cows, even if the “mad cow” disease was present in Germany, Holland, France and Italy ? Ever wondered why Germany got it’s CO2 quota grow by 12% while all the new members got smaller quotas than last year ? Ever wondered why service companies from the new member states cannot compete on equal terms in markets in Western Europe ?

    EU is a press gang. It’s better to be a member than to be outside, but there are different degrees of membership benefits.

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