GREEN LAND – challenges facing Polish agriculture

EU residents and, in all likelihood, a large share of my compatriots, are not aware to what extent Polish food is underrated. It is influenced by many factors that creates and forms our rural areas.

More agricultural lands in Poland than in the “Old Union” states have preserved their ecological purity.

The use of fertilisers and plant protection products was, as a rule, much lower. In the Western countries, the cult of profit maximisation led to degradation of soils. Since our accession to the EU, it has been said that our agriculture is not very modern. Today it appears that these “backward” farms are the paragon to which European agriculture should aspire.

Published in 2019, the European Green Deal poses many climate and environmental challenges across all areas of policy and the economy, including for the agricultural sector. Two strategies mainly relate to it: “From field to table” and “Biodiversity”.

With this approach, the European Green Deal is an opportunity for us. However, the lack of local processing, destroyed in the 1990s, remains a threat. Its reconstruction is one of the priorities of the Polish Order.

Moving away from profit maximisation in agriculture is an absolutely right direction. The move towards sustainable agriculture marks a return to traditional agriculture.

Family farming is its natural ally. Certainly, the experience of the pandemic crisis will provide a better understanding of the importance and role of these farms in our economy as a whole, but also in terms of food security. That is why Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki’s government is placing a strong emphasis on strengthening small and medium-sized family farms.

The European Green Deal imposes new requirements and conditions on farming. Ever more stringent environmental standards and rules, raise production costs. Farmers must ensure food security, protect the environment, natural resources, and halt climate change. It costs money. A farmer cannot remain unsupported in these activities.

The European Commission stresses that the strategy will provide farmers with benefits because it involves a fair systemic transformation, financial support under the Common Agricultural Policy, cohesion policy, etc. It also envisages strengthening the position of farmers in the market chain and additional income from CO2 absorption. It also says sustainable production methods, reduced environmental footprint and improved animal welfare will become a trademark for EU food. This is good news, but at the same time, care must be taken to ensure that food not produced under the regime which applies to European farmers does not reach the European market. The import of such food distorts competitive conditions.

According to the Strategy for Sustainable Development of Rural Areas, Agriculture and Fisheries 2030 adopted in Poland in 2019, rural areas in 2050 will be an attractive place to work, live, rest and conduct agricultural or non-agricultural activities. They will be areas that provide, through the sustainable development of competitive agriculture and fishing, public and market goods, while preserving their unique environmental qualities for future generations. Rural economic development that enables sustainable growth of income generated by the residents of rural areas, with concurrent minimization of economic, social, and territorial stratification and improvement of the natural environment have been adopted as the main objective.

Unfortunately, there are also threats to the Polish countryside and agriculture in the EU. One of them is the increasingly frequent ideological attacks by pseudo-environmentalists who would most like to abolish agriculture in general, and animal production in particular. Meanwhile, without farmers, without balanced crop and livestock production, the harmony of nature will be disturbed. Villages may cease to exist, as it is already happening in some countries.

In order to achieve the objectives set out in the European Green Deal, it is also necessary to strengthen the agricultural environment – the scientific and research sector, knowledge transfer and advisory channels, computerisation and services for agriculture. It is therefore necessary to have an ongoing discussion in Poland and throughout the EU about the possibility, scope and manner of achieving the objectives set out in the Green Deal. They are very ambitious. However, we must not lose sight of food security, which we owe to the Polish farmers. We saw this during the first wave of the pandemic. We must also not allow the competitiveness of Polish agriculture to decrease.

In contrast to many European countries, we have very good, sustainable agriculture in Poland, and if we are able to define the threats that arise, the European Green Deal could be an opportunity for us, particularly for family farms. It is thanks to them that our villages have retained their natural character.

Grzegorz Puda
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development