By Leonardo Rossi
Although during the Kirchnerist governments, the sector's policy underpinned the advance of a large-scale and concentrated agricultural model, certain sectors understood that there were spaces within the State to dispute under other forms of food production. The measures taken by President Mauricio Macri no longer leave room for proposals from the popular camp. Pedro Peretti, member of the Grito de Alcorta Group - detachment from the Agrarian Federation -, Diego Montón of the National Indigenous Peasant Movement (MNCI) and Fernando Frank of the 'Peasants of the Conlara Valley' analyze what Kirchnerism left in agriculture, together to the ruptures and continuities that it presents in the new political scenario. As a synthesis of the looming panorama, Peretti suggests: "All of us who want to defeat neoliberalism in the countryside must be on the same path."
Pedro Peretti is a historic federated leader of Máximo Paz (Santa Fe). For several years he has maintained a dissident line with the latest FAA leaders since he understands that his positions, allied with the Rural Society and Argentine Rural Confederations, have forgotten to defend the traditional flags of the entity, for example agriculture with farmers , "With a human face." Over the twelve years of Kirchner governments, Peretti recognizes "great achievements in human rights, science, labor rights." But he does not hesitate to state that "the place where the least positive transformations existed was in agriculture."
The main mistake, he says, was "not identifying the agrarian subject, which the Peronism of 45/55 did, aiming its policies at the tenants and peons." Regarding these issues, Peretti deepens his analysis and proposals in the book "La chacra mixta y otros yerbas" (Bicentennial Perspective, 2014).
In a context of rising commodity prices, with soy at the forefront, in the last fifteen years the area sown with this oilseed has doubled, from almost ten million hectares at the beginning of the period to about twenty million hectares nowadays. Faced with this advance of a new production model opposed to that of the mixed farm and diversified productions, public policy was the tool to regulate this system that tends to concentration, to eliminate direct jobs, and to smooth out rural roots.
Peretti understands that the key to begin to change this advance on the farmers was to differentiate in size and production the various players in the sector. “They do not want to make believe that a State that manages thousands of differentiated pension accounts cannot measure and catalog by size and volume a few hundred thousand producers, approximately 60 thousand soybeans or 29 thousand wheat growers, which on the other hand AFIP already does. ”.
Los Campesinos del Valle de Conlara are a grassroots organization in the province of San Luis, autonomous from the political parties. From that group, Fernando Frank adds that the Strategic Agri-Food Plan launched by Kirchnerism "was also a disaster." This work carried out by the previous national government, with the support of the provincial governments and 43 universities, set productive goals for the sector by 2020. For example, it aims to increase the area sown with grains for export from 33 to 42 million hectares . For the member of the ‘Campesinos del Valle’ during the drafting process, “participation was handled a lot and ended up being only a praise of agribusiness, a revival of the most classic and retrograde agro-export Argentina”.
Diego Montón is part of the Union of Landless Rural Workers (Mendoza) and is a leader of the National Indigenous Peasant Movement-Via Campesina, which brings together some 25 thousand families in twelve provinces. From that organization they joined the national government during Cristina Fernández's stage, holding positions in the Secretariat of Family Agriculture (SAF). Montón agrees that Kirchnerism "was a management during which agribusiness was the main agrarian proposal in tune with the global financial capital offensive." However, it highlights that "it was possible to advance in terms of organization and development of public policies according to the historical demands of the sector."
The various grassroots rural referents agree that Kirchnerism promoted the concentration of agriculture.
For Peretti, the creation of the SAF and the enactment of Law 27,118 / 2014 aimed at family farming was "a great achievement" of Kirchnerism. However, "an incredible intern within that space took out the financing", which was to be a floor of 1,500 million pesos. In other words, the goals aimed at strengthening productive aspects and substantive issues raised by the law, such as stopping rural evictions, remained only on paper. Frank also shares that Kirchner's policy of institutionalizing family farming was an important step, which allowed "progress in the discussion of rural development, moving away from the targeted poverty alleviation policies typical of the IMF."
These actions of the previous Executive - Montón maintains - allowed “progress in programs for access to water, support for local fairs and markets, peasant community radio stations, reforms in the Food Code and Senasa in terms of differentiated demands, and the seal of agriculture family".
Within the outpost of the ‘agribusiness’ there were several key concessions granted by the preceding political process. Frank lists some points. An example, the Law of Forests (2007) promoted by Kirchnerism "did not stop the clearing." Despite being an advanced regulation, the lack of momentum and financing allowed Argentina to lose more than three million hectares of native forest in a decade. In a similar case, "the anti-foreignization law of the land did not stop the concentration." However, there are no serious data emerged from the State about the ownership and use of rural land in the country. “No serious rural census was done in twelve years. We do not know how many productive units were lost and that is unforgivable ”, denounces Frank. Finally, the member of the ‘Campesinos del Valle’ adds that “many transgenic events were approved” during Kirchnerism, a total of 27, against seven endorsed in the previous governments. At the same time, “they did not see the problem of pesticides in its tremendous dimension: the consumption of herbicides multiplied 1,279 percent between 1991 and 2011, according to INTA data. And they support glyphosate, 2,4-D and atrazine while many countries advance restrictions ”.
To the big one, everything and more
With this scenario as a basis, Mauricio Macri assumed the presidency of the Nation determined to deepen large-scale agriculture. The first great gesture for the hegemonic sectors of agriculture was the appointment of Ricardo Buryaile as minister of the portfolio of the sector, now renamed as "Agroindustry". A few days after his inauguration, the former leader of the Argentine Rural Confederations accompanied the president in announcing the total removal of withholdings on wheat, sunflower and corn exports. They also lowered soy withholdings by five percent, remaining at thirty percent, and with the objective of a gradual reduction to reach zero percent in 2022.
Faced with these first movements, Peretti affirms that there will be "a central problem in the medium and long term: a tremendous vertical concentration of companies, the new great demon that haunts family farming". “Meat and bone producers tend to be replaced by large companies that go from primary to sale. It is moving towards a vertical mega-business model. That is what all the macrismo measures aim at ”, analyzes the referent of the‘ Grito de Alcorta ’.
Fernando Frank points out that the dominance of industrial agriculture "is going to deepen." "The removal of retentions is going to be noticed in the territories with more clearings, more soybeans and corn," he points out. Montón deepens: "the removal of withholdings and devaluation are ways of transferring large percentages of national income to concentrated sectors at the cost of reducing the income of popular sectors, small and medium-sized companies, and merchants." With a federal look, from the MNCI they observe that "while Macri lies saying that he defends regional economies, in Rio Negro the small producers are throwing away their production, and the workers eat little fruit because of how expensive it is sold by supermarkets." The examples are replicated with “the small winemakers who are bankrupt, while the wine is sold very expensive; as is the case with herbalists, tobacco growers, horticulturists, goat, lamb and bovine producers, who are paid little and their products are sold very expensive ”.
While the big agrarian business community is given the green light, "the Secretary of Family Agriculture is being dismantled," Montón and Frank denounce. "Not a single measure has yet been announced that has to do with the demands and needs of peasants, indigenous people and family farmers," compares the MNCI leader. And it does not leave aside "the lack of control of the police and military forces, and the repressive messages of the Executive" that tend to create "a very dangerous scenario in the countryside, where unscrupulous businessmen try to advance on peasant rights."
Unite and force
In this context, movements within the field of popular organizations are sharpening in order to resist the advance of agribusiness and its environmental, food, and socio-cultural impacts. Various spaces that knew how to distance themselves during the Kirchner government, today find new readings about how to defend peasant, indigenous and family agriculture.
"Food sovereignty and agrarian reform are more valid than ever," says Montón.
“There were many signs of rapprochement throughout the past year, and I think these first months of Macri have been very shocking. Given that, the unions and concrete practices are going to be seen soon, but they are still not so clear ”, says Frank.
Peretti asks to look at the recent past, where he understands "the agricultural bourgeoisie gave itself to the right." “You have to have a critique, look wide, far and deep. It did a lot of damage to the political debate, certain spaces that were dedicated to calling the entire sector ‘gauchocracia’ and that was a gift to the right ”. Now, “the triumph of Macri puts us all in the same trench; all those who want to defeat the neoliberal model in the countryside, farmers, peasants, laborers, farmers, producers have to be together because in front of us we have millionaire advertising accounts to make ourselves invisible ”.
"We have been articulating, many organizations, of various expressions, peasant, indigenous, fishermen and family farmers, and now we are reflecting on how we are going to reorder these articulations based on the new scenario," Montón raises. “There is diversity, but there is a lot of organized force”, values the leader of Via Campesina, who does not doubt that “food sovereignty and agrarian reform are more valid than ever, as they are appropriate responses to the consequences of the systemic crisis: food, climate and financial ”. "The peoples will come out of the hand of the popular economy, because justice will not be possible from the hand of finance capital and transnationals."