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Swiss voters reject more aid for farmers

Zurich | Reuters — Swiss voters decisively rejected more help for farmers in two referendums on Sunday, heeding the government’s warnings that the measures would send food prices rocketing and hurt the economy, projections for broadcaster SRF showed.

Opinion polls had shown early widespread support for more farm aid was fading as the vote neared and more details about likely costs emerged.

Economy Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann had called the proposals “dangerous” and said they could trigger tariff increases and other reprisals from trading partners.

One proposal, called the Fair Food initiative, called for all food in Switzerland to come from sustainable sources and for labelling to be more exact. It aimed to improve animal welfare by banning imports of factory-farmed products and ensuring food imports met higher Swiss standards.

Voters were set to reject the measure by a 63-37 per cent margin, projections by polling outfit gfs.bern showed. The margin of error was two percentage points.

Supporters such as the Green Party and Social Democrats argued that consumers, animals, the environment and farmers would all benefit.

The other proposal wanted to increase state aid to Swiss farmers, whose numbers have halved since 1985 in a country where three farming businesses close every day.

That was set to fail by a 70-30 per cent margin, the projections showed.

Agriculture’s contribution to the Swiss economy has fallen from two per cent in 1985 to under one per cent.

The referendums were held after farming groups and environmentalists gathered the more than 100,000 signatures needed to trigger a vote under Switzerland’s system of direct democracy.

The government said the demands would lead to higher subsidies or fixed prices, a claim campaigners rejected.

— Reporting for Reuters by Michael Shields.

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