A-9/13 Retailer-driven agricultural restructuring – Australia, the UK and Norway in comparison

In recent decades, the governance of food safety, food quality, on-farm environmental management and animal welfare has been shifting from the realm of ‘the government’ to that of the private sector. Corporate entities, especially the large supermarkets, have responded to neoliberal forms of governance and the resultant ‘hollowed-out’ state by instituting private standards for food, backed by processes of certification and policed through systems of third party auditing. Today’s food regime is one in which supermarkets impose ‘private standards’ along the food supply chain to ensure compliance with a range of food safety goals—often above and beyond those prescribed by government. By examining regulatory governance in Australia, Norway and the United Kingdom we highlight emerging trajectories of food governance. We argue that the imposition of the new private forms of monitoring and compliance continue the project of agricultural restructuring that began with government support for structural adjustment schemes in agriculture and that these are most evident in the UK and Australia where neoliberalism is an entrenched philosophy. However, despite Norway’s identity as a social democracy, we also identify neoliberal ‘creep’ into the system of food governance. Small-scale producers in all three nations are finding themselves increasingly subject to governance through private, market-based mechanisms that, to varying degrees, are dominated by major supermarket chains. The result is agricultural restructuring not through the traditional avenues of elected governments, but via non-elected market operatives. Agriculture and Human Values June 2013, Vol 30, (2): 235-245

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