Organic Consumers Association

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Thai Coup Ushers in Organic Farming Initiative

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After the May 22 coup in Southeast Asia's Thailand, the new military-led government has revealed agricultural reforms based on sustainable, organic agriculture - an unprecedented and progressive departure from the unsustainable populist subsidies that proceeded it in Thailand, and that can be found in various degrees of failure around the world. The Royal Thai Army's General Prayuth Chan-ocha gave a basic summary of the reforms in a speech made before the nation late May, stating:

We are trying to find measures to fix the prices of agricultural products without bringing more problems like those that happened in the past. Some of these measures include cost reduction such as costs of fertilizers and seedlings, increase productivity while reducing areas being used, employ natural fertilizer and reduce chemical fertilizers, use of local raw materials, and increase product cost and quality in order to compete with other countries. At present, NCPO has giving priority to paying the rice farmers. The Bank of Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives owes the rice farmers a large sum of money. BAAC is now in the process of trying to solve this problem.

The plan seeks to immediately relieve farmers cheated by the ousted regime's failed subsidy program that left nearly a million farmers unpaid for rice they had long-ago turned in to government warehouses. To replace the subsidies, General Prayuth intends to implement a version of self-sufficient, localized agriculture that replaces big-agri with local and sustainable solutions.

A New Way For Farmers

A more detailed framework of the reforms (original Thai version here) has been outlined by former anti-regime protester, Buddha Issara, who helped lead 6 months of protests against the regime of Thaksin Shinawatra before the May 22 coup. He had become famous among Thailand's farmers when he purchased rice mills with donation money and began running them at his protest site in northern Bangkok to help struggling farmers sell their harvests directly to consumers.

The points outlined in his plan include investment in national infrastructure, including irrigation systems, education programs, as well as media channels made available to broadcast issues pertinent and useful to farmers. It also focuses on land reform and in particular, the enforcement of land renting schemes designed to prevent exploitation and debt, as well as heavier taxes for land left unused by wealthy speculators.

There are also provisions for improving the quality of agricultural products - producing products that are healthier and of higher quality for consumers. This comes after subsidy programs encouraged farmers to grow crops that produced higher yields rather than crops consumers actually wanted to buy, skewing the markets and leaving warehouses overflowing with unwanted, unsold produce.   
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