Super Kolkhoz: How Russia could better Manage its Agricultural Treasures
Why invest in Russian agriculture? Russia is the country with the most arable land, but has historically not managed to develop an advanced agriculture. Why should this be done now? There are various security, economic, social, and spiritual-related reasons. First, as part of guaranteeing elementary sovereignty, Russia must ensure food security for its almost 150 million people. Otherwise, in the current context, it is possible that the Western-imposed blockade could severely hurt the country and its citizens. Secondly, agriculture (and related food industries) offer employment for many people. Thirdly, in the current political and economic context, agriculture can be an excellent investment opportunity, especially for small investors if done in conjunction with the Homestead Act currently being implemented. In light of the current counter-sanctions imposed on the US-led Western world, this investment possibility is particularly interesting, but should be extended to be available to private individuals. For social reasons, it gives rural communities the possibility to recover and develop both as a population and economically. There is another reason which is more philosophical and spiritual - and I am sure that Dr. Dugin could conceptualize it much better- namely, that agriculture is a hard, honest labour for people who love their land which rewards them with harvests. Working on daily contact with nature therefore also has a spiritual side. Moreover, rural communities honor traditions, both civil and religious, and give the country a soul and an identity.
How can Russian agriculture be revitalized? The model proposed is a system in the form of a multilayered cooperative similar to what has been done in the defense industry and in some areas of Europe.
The first thing in order would be to create a "Super Kolkhoz" at the Oblast/Republic/Krai/Okrug levels and perhaps some specific ones for the Arctic (dealing with fur/wool animals) and Far East (fishing) that would work with around 100 entities. Eventually, smaller units could be aggregated. Each Super Kolkhoz should include existing farmers and include all unused land in the local Super Kolkhoz. Unused land would be managed by the kolkhoz until a new owner takes over. The Super Kolkhoz should handle such functions as marketing, packaging, logistics (storage), financing, equipment rental, seeds, fertilizer, academic/scientific research, crop/animal care, cattle import/market, support (bureaucratic, certification, quality) and more. Each Super Kolkhoz should become both a food producer, to add value to locally grown raw materials (e.g. milk->cheese), as well as develop products beyond food. There should be a cooperative process within the kolkhoz and between different ones with the help of local or even foreign partnerships with companies. The Super Kolkhoz should also use inmates as a free/cheap labour source, perhaps in conjunction to a rehabilitation program run by the Church or other Russian NGO’s.
Financing should be mainly done in five ways as follows. Firstly, by allowing people to buy 1 hectare of land to be managed by the kolkhoz (people can pay extra for a license to build a dacha/house, or for picking different type of plants farmed (e.g., apple orchard). As of 2017, the Russian “Homestead Act” gives away 1 hectare of free land, but this is too little land for a self-sustaining farm or family. Therefore, the land should be sold beyond the restricted 1 hectare per person for an affordable amount like 700 thousand to one million rubles and managed by the kolkhoz so that people can own a piece of land that could be made productive thanks to kolkhoz cooperation. The state could also give away 1 hectare plots to the less privileged members of society (pensioners, large families). Secondly, small pure shareholders in the kolkhoz can offer investments in the form of shares or bonds either in individual kolkhoz or to a federal agricultural fund. Thirdly, the state can contribute with extra funds and, fourthly, crowdfunding could be used for special projects. Fifthly, strategic firms (e.g. agricultural, machinery and others) could be allowed to swap their products for equity and, sixthly, health certificates can be used to manage imports.
Above the Super Kolkhoz there should be a holding company, such as "Federal Kolkhoz" subordinated to the Ministry of Agriculture for the purpose of managing all these Super Kolkhoz by setting policy priorities (such as import substitution), regulating quality, and other spheres, including giving impetus to exports and more. The holding company should include: a) a Federal Kolkhoz logistics company with train, air, naval and road transport (including local transport companies for local deliveries); b) Kolkhoz TV channel, websites, and other online resources for training, knowledge management and the promotion of agriculture; c) a Federal Kolkhoz agricultural seeds/plants company to research the best class plants for Russia; and d) E-commerce facilities for direct sales to direct consumers or small businesses (restaurants/kiosks).
Agriculture is a low value industry that suffers from the competitive prices of raw materials, seasonality, and is mostly supported by governments and is not easily sustainable to create profit for reinvestments. Thus, the Super Kolkhoz should act like a "business incubator (nursery)" in which members are encouraged and supported to create higher value from their crops by transforming them into food or other products, e.g., acquiring permits for the production of alcoholic drinks (beer, vine, liquors, distillates), natural cosmetics/medicines to be managed/distributed by the Kolkhoz. As an example, we can take the blackcurrant berry (черная смородина). Besides jam, juice, syrup, sweets, ice cream, and tea, it can also be processed into oil (it contains omega 3/6 for skin allergies/care) for both people and pets, can be used as an anti-histamine or cortisone-like medicine for allergies (asthma) and inflammations, and can be used in cosmetics/perfumes.
There should be a program to seed/plant many (tens of) millions of trees/plants each year (as a benchmark, Italy has 250 million olive trees). For Russia, fruit trees (e.g., apples) should be a priority, and for the colder regions, berries.
As for GMO and health certificates, in addition to the total prohibition of GMO, the state needs to push for high quality food without GMO’s or dangerous chemicals such as Glyphosate and push for organic/biodynamic agriculture with the development of relevant seeds/fertilizers/practices.
To penalize "tainted" food imports and to protect clean food producers, the state should introduce import health certificates for GMO "tainted" countries in percentages above 100% for: a) GMO growing countries; b) countries allowing GMO import/sales//food processing/export (in the EU the sale of GMO’s cannot be prohibited by individual states); and c) countries allowing GMO cattle-feeding.
Similar "health certificates" could be applied also to GMO cotton. The proceeds from health certificates should be used to fund clean, organic agriculture in Russia.
This suggestion advocates for a better way in which Russia could develop its agriculture, and thereby guarantee food security, provide healthy products to consumers, enable widespread land ownership for private citizens, and also generate financial rewards for investors.