Saturday, May 1, 2010

Another Problem for the Korean Farmers

Farmers in Korea have a difficult time making a profit in the best of times, but when something unexpected happens, such as a farm epidemic, it becomes even more difficult. In the beginning of the month, there was an outbreak of the foot-and-mouth disease here in Gangwha Gun, which resulted in the slaughter of many cows and pigs.

I slept over night in a Gangwha Gun parish a few days ago and the pastor mentioned how disappointed the farmers are. The head of the parish council in a nearby parish had to kill all his animals. The government does compensate, but does not cover the total loss to the farmers, and there is constant wrangling over what they should be getting.

The pastor in Gangwha Gun does not want to enter the farming area for fear that he may be a carrier. The farmers are also not happy to have visitors. Cars are sprayed, and even before entering Church we are given antiseptic foot pads to disinfect our shoes.

Foot-and-mouth disease is not a problem everywhere in Gangwha, but for those raising animals it is a very trying time. The virus is not a problem for humans, although we can be carriers. The disease has already spread to other parts of Korea and concern is growing that it will become a national problem.

Land for farming is limited in Korea so the overcrowding necessary to raise the animals in a confined area does not help in controlling the epidemic. Though the use of antibiotics is high in Korea, the government has banned the use of seven antibiotics in animal feed, and there is a movement to eliminate entirely the use of antibiotics in the raising of animals. The Koreans are very conscious of the quality of the foods they will eat. Good publicity for a particular food insures it will sell, and when there is negative reporting the demand disappears.

Just recently we have seen a change when our community gathers to eat. The beverage of choice for the men had been Soju, but about a month ago there was a change to makkoli--rice wine. A wise decision by the men to help the economy by using some of the rice that is otherwise not being used.

The efforts that are made to help the farmers are many. The nation knows the importance of the farming sector of the society and wants to promote it. Subsidies to the farmers are offered to encourage them to enter other areas of farming besides rice. The foot-and- mouth epidemic is very expensive for both the government and the farmers and a cause of great concern. But the biggest concern may be the hopelessness that comes when the farmers feel powerless to control a frightening situation. It is this destructive effect on the morale of those who work raising livestock that has to be acknowledged and overcome.

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