Squeal Like A Pig

Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil, and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, stupid farmer.

The Queensland government has imposed a ban on land clearing, which has upset farmers in the state.

Ken Parish thinks it’s just great:

Friday’s announcement by Queensland Premier Peter Beattie that his government was imposing a ban on further land clearing in that State, effective immediately, is just about the best piece of news I’ve heard this year.

Obviously, Ken doesn’t think highly of the intelligence or land-managing ability of “halfwit” farmers:

To put it bluntly, farmers whose idea of landcare is wholesale clearing have no place on the land. Good riddance, I say.

Presumably, Ken has a thorough understanding of the nature of broadacre cropping, the effects of land clearing on salinity, and modern crop rotation practices.

For those of you who aren’t farmers, I’d like to point out that it is quite difficult to raise crops on land that isn’t cleared. It’s a reasonably necessary first step in the cultivation of a crop that you get the trees and shrubs out of the way first.

It isn’t all that much different to buying a block of land with the plan to build an office tower, then having the state government re-zone it so you can’t build it higher than 1 storey. Obviously this represents a significant reduction in the value of the land in question.

Moreover, I don’t see any real reason why they should receive compensation for being prevented from using their land in an irresponsible and unsustainable way.

So let’s say a farmer buys a 500 hectare patch of land which is completely uncleared. Depending on the soil, this could cost up to $1million. Now, the state government has declared that the land can not be cleared under any circumstances.

What you’ve got is a $1million garden, useless for anything except sightseeing. And the farmers shouldn’t be compensated? Give me a break, Ken. They absolutely should be compensated, for the full amount of what the land would be worth cleared.

This is beside the fact that most farmers are actually quite good at managing the environmental issues associated with cropping. Paddocks that turn salty or sandy are frequently replanted with trees at the farmer’s own expense.

The ban in question doesn’t even attempt to establish if the clearing is “irresponsible and unsustainable”. It’s just a blanket ban. Can you honestly say that a farmer who has replanted 200 hectares can’t then go and clear the 50 hectares that the old man never got around to doing? Is that irresponsible or unsustainable?

Ken is right, this is not an issue of principle. The principles are quite straightforward:

Just as the government has no place telling you what hours you can open your own Deli, they have no business telling farmers what parts of their private land can and can not be cleared.

There’s no evidence that I have seen that the government is better equipped to manage the environmental aspects of a person’s private property than the owner themselves. If that’s not true, and they are in fact well on top of the situation, then compensate the farmers fully.

Luckily for Ken, 8 years in the city has gone some way to nullifying some of my more neanderthal farmer tendencies. I’d hate to see how a real life, dimwitted, redneck farmer would react to a city professor telling him how to manage his business.

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