Regulation of the Family Farming Historic Repair Law, access to land and financing for food production are some of the axes highlighted by Ricardo Sirotiuk, from the Federation of Nuclear Organizations of Family Farming (Fonaf). Criticism of the Government for not listening to the popular sectors of the countryside.
Ricardo Sirotiuk presides over the Federation of Nuclear Organizations of Family Agriculture (Fonaf). It is a national organization of producing families from all over the country, with three representatives from the five regions: Northwest, Northeast, Cuyo, Patagonia and Center. Fonaf was one of the promoters of Law 27,118 for the historic reparation of family farming (approved in 2014 and never regulated).
Fonaf members are dedicated to farming, fishing, forestry, agro-industrial and craft activities, harvesting, mining and rural tourism. In 2022, the Federation joined Mesa Agroalimentar Argentina.
Before a new election year, Sirotiuk takes stock of the management of the national government.
Interview with Sirotiuk about family farming and land reform
—What is your assessment of the Frente de Todos government in terms of agricultural policies?
—In addition to having received a debt-ridden country and going through the pandemic, which did not allow us to work on general policies from the beginning, I think that in the post-pandemic period the Government should have dedicated itself fully to agricultural policies, to strengthen the regional economies and family farming. But there have been no initiatives to address the problems that have been dragging on for years, since the policies of Mauricio Macri and a Family Farming Law that was enacted at the end of 2014, but not regulated.
From Fonaf, we went all over the territory and proposed this law. But, once sanctioned, there was no impetus to agricultural policies for smaller sectors. The decision to incorporate three ministries into the Ministry of Economy and to reduce the Ministry of Agriculture to a Secretariat shows that agriculture was not important in this government. It is a clear reason to say that there were no initiatives to sustain the sector in the emergencies and financing difficulties that we have.
— Do you think that, in this election year, there is political margin left to promote measures for the peasant-indigenous agenda?
—If the Government listens to grassroots organizations and we can work together on public policies, there will be room. We have been working on this from Fonaf until our recent incorporation into Mesa Agroalimentar Argentina. The producer organizations that are now in the territories are disappointed, often working on farms that have been completely abandoned due to lack of policies.
There are always promises but that strength is missing. Although there is not much time left, I believe that the Government has room to reverse this situation. From Mesa Agroalimentar Argentina we present five bills, in addition to financing initiatives and revolving funds to generate added value. If they listen to us, there is room to generate a financing policy for food production, which is what the population needs. Family farming is the one that provides food for the people and the one that generates food sovereignty.
—What do you think of the creation of the National Institute of Family, Peasant and Indigenous Agriculture?
—Fonaf was born out of the National Forum for Family Agriculture, a space created in 2006 within the scope of the Secretariat for Family Agriculture. In the early years, Néstor Kirchner gave it a very important boost. And the Fonaf organizations have always been, through our participation, linked to the Secretariat. In this context, the recent creation of the new institute went badly because we were not consulted about it. On the other hand, the Secretariat for Family Agriculture has not responded recently in terms of financing or technical assistance for the sector of cooperatives and productive organizations. The National Institute of Family Agriculture is an autonomous entity and I don’t know what political decision will grant it resources so that it can generate the policies that family agriculture needs.
— What expectations do you have?
—Expectations within organizations are not high, but neither can we leave free spaces: we have to be in these spaces. At this time, the urgent agenda, in addition to financing and executing projects, is the implementation of the Family Farming Law, the agricultural social monotribute and the Family Farming Register, which are now dispersed.
—What would you say to citizens who still don’t believe that land access and food sovereignty policies are necessary?
—In the big cities, like Buenos Aires, Rosario, Córdoba, people often don’t understand the sacrifice involved in land and production, the work we do 365 days a year in livestock, horticulture and fruit production. These are very risky productions, where you work all year round but due to bad weather you can lose all production. And when that happens, as happened this year with the frosts, the prices of fruits and vegetables go up. Sometimes you see on television channels that the price of tomatoes goes up, but when it goes down and doesn’t cover production costs, they don’t communicate. That’s why there has to be work on cultural issues.
—What is the role of peasant and indigenous organizations in this regard?
—The entities that make up the Mesa Agroalimentar Argentina seek to reach consumers directly, showing how we work, the impact of inclement weather, production times and agroecology as a way to produce and feed in a healthy way. Organizations have to do this because the State does not. At the same time, as part of Fonaf and as a producer, I am proud that young people from the work cooperatives in urban areas that sell our fruits and vegetables ask us for videos of where and how we grow them and the sacrifice that this means. This material is then disseminated on social networks for the sale of products. Today, the position of defending the land, the producer and the food sovereignty of the peoples has multiplied, generating direct links between the producer and the consumer.
—If you had to write the axes of the territorial, productive and food policy of an electoral program, which laws or programs could not be missing in a next Government?
—The axes are access to land and the problem of leasing because today people pay a fortune to rent land and be able to produce. Family agriculture has 60% of labor for food production with very little land. It is also clear that regional economies are forgotten. There is also a lack of regulation of the Family Farming Law and a normative change that regulates pesticides. They are specific laws to generate a change in the agrarian sphere and for the small producer not to disappear. In the next government there should be an agrarian reform based on family farming and regional economies.