Land reform discussion

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  1. Die Neue Zeit
    Die Neue Zeit
    I've read these wiki before this discussion (but also the one on land reform):

    Since I'll be cracking the non-political textbooks once more for the next while or so, I thought of starting this thread on land reform for those already in the know about my position.

    For all intents and purposes, this is a continuation of comrade MarxSchmarx's very old land reform thread:

    For quite some time I've been enamored with the combination of skyscraper-style vertical farming and aggressive sovkhozization of agriculture. However, comrade MarxSchmarx told me that certain agricultural products may not be adaptible to the skyscraper-style vertical farming environment.

    Maybe a left-populist-socialist synthesis can be reached that combines economies of scale in the cities with peasant populist politics in the countryside?

    1) Aggressive, "red directorial" development of public vertical farming where non-existent - no kolkhozy or private "slots" inside ( )
    2) Public ownership of vertical farming where existent due to private development - no kolkhozy or private "slots" inside
    3) Public ownership of industrial farms (since these can't really be chopped into smaller landholdings) - no kolkhozy or private plots

    4a) Whatever land is left that is worked on by farm workers proper should be taken into public ownership - again, no kolkhozy or private plots
    4b) Whatever land is left that is worked on by small tenants and sharecroppers can be chopped for redistribution as smaller landholdings, with some sort of propagandistic encouragement towards kolkhozization with or without private plots

    With the sovkhozization in 1, 2, 3, and 4a, that's more than enough agriculture to allow for the inefficiencies resulting from 4b.

  2. Q
    What types of agriculture are we talking about concretely that cannot be verticalised? This sounds more like a technical issue than anything.

    Also, I miss some lines that talk about the automation of agriculture. Yes, I'm talking about robots, cybernetic planning, hydrophonic farming, etc. Are they all assumed with vertical farming?
  3. Die Neue Zeit
    Die Neue Zeit
    Automation, mechanization, etc. are all assumed, yes. ckaihatsu wrote about hydroponics in the old land reform thread, for example.
  4. Paul Cockshott
    Paul Cockshott
    vertical farming seems a nonsense energy input from sun per sq meter is a limiting factor, vertical farming can't gain here.
  5. Paul Cockshott
    Paul Cockshott
    vertical farming seems a nonsense energy input from sun per sq meter is a limiting factor, vertical farming can't gain here.
  6. Die Neue Zeit
    Die Neue Zeit
    Fiberoptics can emit something like sunlight:
  7. Q
    There is also ongoing research on LED lighting to grow plants. As LED's get better I expect that to become a major growlight resource.
  8. Die Neue Zeit
    Die Neue Zeit
    Even now, within the framework of industrial farming, there is small-scale vertical farming developed:

    For years the concept of vertical farms has been consigned to the pages of architect's notebooks, but now a British-Canadian firm is poised to turn vertical farming into a reality – albeit on a smaller scale than the farm skyscrapers you find in science fiction novels.
  9. Die Neue Zeit
    Die Neue Zeit
    Food production: Agriculture wars

    By Javier Blas in London and Leslie Hook

    Jiang Wen does not know BHP Billiton or PotashCorp. But he knows that the mineral over which the companies are fighting in a $39bn hostile takeover is crucial for the farmers in Duzhuang, a village near Beijing.

    “I’ve never heard of BHP – does this mean the price of potash is going to rise?” Mr Jiang asks repeatedly from his fertiliser store. Others in China’s agricultural areas say they have not heard of the bid for the Canadian fertiliser company by the world’s largest miner. But their interest in the price and availability of potash, a mineral used in fertilisers, is keen.

    The significance of the bid, the biggest in a wave of mergers and acquisitions in the sector, reaches beyond investment bankers and boardrooms. Mr Jiang’s anxiety encapsulates the increasing interaction between globalisation, demographics, agriculture and food security.

    Following the second world war – and particularly the rapid increase in productivity brought about by the Green Revolution in the 1960s, based on the use of fertilisers and high-yielding seeds – the threat of scarcity had largely vanished from the world.

    The ascent of potash – and other fertilisers such as phosphate and nitrogen – into investors’ portfolios tracks the resurgence of agriculture in the new millennium. Behind this is the rise of emerging countries such as China and the elevation to the middle class of billions of people who now require a diet richer than the traditional staples of rice and wheat.

    The transformation has surprised an industry long used to being ignored. One cold morning in November 1989, the government of the rural Canadian province of Saskatchewan started the privatisation of PotashCorp through an initial public offering – and raised a mere $231m. It sold the shares at $18 but, by the end of the first trading day with investors showing little interest, the price had fallen to $17.75.

    Those were the days when investors were little interested in an obscure commodity such as potash. Agriculture and its support industries were not “fully appreciated”, explains Jim Prokopanko, chief executive of US-based fertiliser group Mosaic. Besides, the problem with food production at the time was excess. The talk in Europe was of grain and butter mountains, and lakes of milk and wine. China, India, Brazil and other emerging countries were yet to rise; Russia was still part of the Soviet Union. Few imagined the era of abundance would end any time soon.

    Two decades on, the situation has changed. “You can see that with a mining company the size of BHP interested in acquiring, [for] billions of dollars, a potash operation that 10 years ago didn’t have much attention,” says Mr Prokopanko. PotashCorp itself has been transformed into the world’s largest listed fertiliser company. Meanwhile, the sector has become the darling of Wall Street’s M&A bankers. In the first eight months of the year, deals valued at $61bn have been announced by companies in the industry, a high that more than doubles the peak hit in 2008, according to Dealogic, a data provider. Including the looming mer*ger of Russian fertiliser groups Uralkali and Silvinit, M&A activity could reach more than $90bn (€71bn, £58bn) this year.

    Underlying the revolution in the fertiliser industry is the increasing scarcity of another commodity: food. Since the crisis of 2007-08 – when long-term economic and demographic trends combined with short-term problems such as bad weather and a spike in oil costs to produce record prices for crops and riots in countries from Haiti to Bangladesh – investors have regained their interest.

    The episode lifted “the issue of agriculture on the global agenda”, says Hallgeir Storvik, chief financial officer of Yara of Norway, the world’s largest nitrogen fertiliser producer. Food security is today hotly debated among the Group of Eight leading industrialised countries.

    The crisis placed fertilisers in the corporate spotlight, with the cost of potash rising from less than $150 in 2006 to almost $1,000 a tonne in 2008.

    Modern agriculture relies heavily on fertiliser – as well as better seeds, including genetically modified ones – to boost crop yields, preventing the global famine that pundits predicted in the middle of the last century. “Potash, for all intents and purposes, is food,” says Vincent Andrews of Morgan Stanley in New York.

    Scientists hope to boost yields even further through discoveries, such as this week’s publication of the wheat genome, which would help crop breeders to develop improved varieties.

    For years, fertiliser consumption increased only slowly, in parallel with the growth in global population. But in the late 1990s and 2000s, new factors accelerated demand – including the rapid economic growth of China and other emerging countries, accompanied by greater demand for proteins such as meat and milk, and a rapid increase in demand for grain to fatten livestock. The development of the global biofuels industry further increased demand for agricultural commodities and hence fertilisers. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation forecasts that global food demand will jump by 70 per cent between now and 2050 as the population rises by 3bn to more than 9bn, further boosting demand for fertiliser.

    As a result, countries are starting to see potash much as they see crude oil: as a hunted, strategic commodity.

    But, as with oil, potash deposits are not evenly spread. A handful of nations – led by Canada, Russia, Belarus and Israel – command the bulk of the reserves. Eight companies control more than 80 per cent of global supply. Two marketing groups – Canpotex for North American producers and BPC for the Russian and Belarusian groups – dominate the global trade.

    The concentration of supplies is driving concern about a tight and politically charged market. “If BHP buys PotashCorp, is it the end of Chinese agriculture?” runs a breathless headline on the website of the China Business Journal. The accompanying article argues that Chinese control of the industry would boost the country’s agriculture and “great causes” – but, if the miner bought the Canadian producer, it would gain control of the potash market and its pricing system.

    Other countries are watching the battle closely, from India, the second-largest importer of the mineral; to Brazil, a key exporter of agricultural commodities that relies on overseas fertiliser supplies. But it is in China, where grain markets are managed closely to ensure farmers keep producing in sufficient quantities to feed the growing population, that concern seems greatest. Few countries take grain self-sufficiency quite so seriously – indeed, it was one of the promises on which the Communist party came to power in 1949.

    Maintaining that promise depends in part on potash, the only fertiliser in which China is seriously deficient. The country, which feeds 20 per cent of the world’s population using just 7 per cent of global arable land, has huge fertiliser needs.

    China, while it produces a small amount of potash, has to import about half of its needs, a dependency that “may become a major threat to China’s fast-developing national economy and long-term strategic needs”, according to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a think-tank that advises the government. Little surprise, then, that its primary importer of the mineral, Sinochem, says it is paying “close attention” to the PotashCorp battle, suggesting the group could launch a counterbid.

    In contrast to the drive to make energy and metals acquisitions in Africa, Asia and elsewhere, the country’s agricultural sector has historically stayed out of the global limelight. But as China struggles to meet its food sufficiency targets, and as fertiliser markets tighten, that is changing. The government has quietly encouraged state-owned agricultural companies to go abroad. Cofco, the grain trader, and Sinochem, the chemicals group, have been hunting for overseas agricultural deals, though with mixed success.

    The bid for PotashCorp is a litmus test for how companies – and nations – view the prospect of a world with tighter food supplies. In the past century, anguish over who will feed the world has always been answered with breakthroughs that have more than compensated for growing populations.

    But if a Chinese state-owned company should plant its flag on the potash industry, it could indicate the introduction of a more cut-throat edge to the geopolitics of agriculture.
  10. Die Neue Zeit
    Die Neue Zeit
    I'm not sure I agree with Paul's statement here:

    Another political factor that has/to be taken into account is the goal ostensible strengthening the small peasant farmers economy against both the capitalist wholesale and slaughterhouse sector and the big private landlords. For this sector, the ability to obtain fair prices for the labour they put in is important. The goal of their project is a vertically integrated pig production, butchery, packing and distribution chain that supplies the working class with meat at valuations that exploit none of the parties in the chain.
    But what if they hire labour for profit?

    I sure wouldn't want to support the small farmer economy if they're competing against commonly owned agriculture.
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