Thinking of Polish agriculture
Crops, harvest festival, gratitude for the Creator for the gifts of the earth... At present this is the subject of talks not only in the country. But not the only one. Politics has a great influence on the material condition of farmers’ families but for several years it is the direction of politics that the European Union imposed. A year after Poland’s accession to the EU one can see how fatal conditions were negotiated. There appeared problems with selling corn at compromisingly low prices: 200-350 PLN for one ton of wheat (several years ago it was almost 700 PLN). A farmer gets 600-800 PLN for one ton of rape this year and last year it was about 1000 PLN (the price of rape on European markets is about 200 EUR for a ton and the sum of subsidies for one hectare amounts to 1000 EUR). Similarly the prices of livestock are on the level that was 10 years ago whereas the costs of production increased several times. In no way did the direct EU subsidies compensate Polish farmers for the decrease of prices for crops.
The media, informing about the advantages and benefits of the accession, do not raise the issue of prices and they are not concerned with the fact that the legislator forgot to subjectivise Polish farmers and the government did not work out any strategic agricultural policy, which would define the producer’s and consumer’s interests. The loud ‘defenders’ of the farmers often simulate their involvement in the defence of farmers’ interests, knowing very well that the European Union excluded the new members, especially Poland, from common agricultural policy. Our negotiators agreed to that without any protest, forgetting that within the EU Poland possesses the third large area of agricultural production – after France and Spain. That gives Poland the chance to produce food in less intensive methods and consequently, our food is of better quality. One can add that the structural variety of the farming areas is a chance and not an obstacle to produce food using ecological methods as well as to expose on this occasion the advantage of culture and regional tradition.
Thus, in the face of the coming election one should pay special attention to the programmes of political parties and their proposals of solving agricultural problems. I would like to focus on the programme ‘Politics for Polish farmers’, prepared by the Party ‘Law and Justice’(PiS). In order to raise the level of farmers’ life and all inhabitants of the country the programme proposes one-year plans of development of agriculture and rural areas, which would be the basis to construct the state budget for every next year, and which would give a chance to eliminate unfavourable phenomena and to support those which can foster development. It is important to pay attention to the politics of development of particular branches as well as the regional programme of development of agriculture and rural areas, which has not been able to fight its way through the decision-makers’ awareness. Recently in the programmes of development of Polish farms, prepared before our accession to the EU, there are words about the necessity to eliminate small farms. And actually many have been eliminated. Therefore, I hopefully accept the statement, which speaks about the necessity to improve the situation of agriculture and preserve as many farms as possible and to ensure their stable functioning.
The world processes of globalisation lead to concentration of capital. Therefore, we need such organisational changes that will contribute to concentrate the scattered financial means, which are directed to agriculture but which do not reach there. There are too many institutions that were called to support agriculture and various kinds of agencies, counselling centres, agricultural chambers, departments of agriculture in voivodship offices, agricultural departments in marshal offices… The activities of these institutions are dispersed, often independent, and one must admit that all institutions are well off whereas farmers are poor. The programme of the PiS assumes that counselling must be directed to organisation of market and promotion of activities, aiming at concentrating means and human resources, for example in producers’ groups. In order to do it we need to verify the present laws and ministerial orders. The organisation of market must be based on contracts that ensure stabilisation of prices so that a farmer is aware of his benefits when he begins work on his land. This is the situation in the EU and so should it be in Poland. A worker knows his pay for an hour, a farmer works because soil must be cultivated and cattle must be fed. And what about the pay?
Experiencing the time of harvest and at the same time remembering the picture and teaching of John Paul II, let us focus on his encouraging words, which he spoke before the harvest in Krosno in 1997: ‘I pay homage to the arduous hands of Polish farmers. Those hands, which make bread for the country out of that difficult and hard land, and which in times of threat were ready to guard and defend this land’. The Holy Father added, ‘Remain faithful to the tradition of your forefathers, create culture of the country in which besides new dimensions the new time brings there will be place – like with the good host – for old things, sanctified by tradition and confirmed by the truth of centuries’.
Recollecting the vows of King Jan Kazimierz, the Pope stressed that ‘they expressed a great concern for the whole country, desire of justice and will to alleviate the burdens of his subjects, especially the people of the land’. Will the new government take into account the fate of Polish farmers? It will, if it has responsible and wise people. But only responsible and wise voters can choose such a government? The circle is closed like the cycle in nature. The blessing of harvest is always preceded by work, reflection and prudent decisions.