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The Warsaw Voice » Other » June 3, 2009
Agricultural Property Agency
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ANR: An Active Player in Political and Economic Changes
June 3, 2009   
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The Agricultural Property Agency (ANR) has since 1992 been a part of the political changes occurring in Poland over the past 20 years. Taking over 4.7 million hectares of land from former state-run farms and from the State Land Fund created a need to manage these assets by selling, leasing or offering them for free usufruct. During this time the ANR paid the debts of former state-run farms and put the assets to use, generating huge funds for the state as a result.

In the course of privatization of the state sector, welfare assistance was provided to former state-farm employees and their families through many different programs, including scholarships for young people. Tenants of homes at former state farms could purchase them on preferential terms, and in fact over 300,000 homes were sold in this way.

The agency is a self-financing institution, which means it does not receive any government subsidies for maintenance and operation. As of 2004, after repaying the debts of former state farms of zl.2 billion, the agency has paid zl.3.3 billion into state coffers.

Though the agency has so far permanently disposed of over 50 percent of the area of State Treasury real estate it has taken over, it continues to be an important instrument for supporting the government's agricultural policy. It is estimated that at the end of 2008, buyers and lessees of smaller pieces of agricultural real estate were using about 1.7 million hectares purchased and leased from the agency on the basis of about 320,000 contracts (an average of 5.2 ha per contract). Buyers and lessees of large pieces of real estate from the agency, over 100 ha each in area, were using 1.9 million ha at the end of December 2008, on the basis of 5,200 contracts (an average of 363 ha per contract). One factor hampering the intensification of complete privatization of assets taken over by the agency-the transfer of ownership rights (chiefly through sales)-is the still unresolved matter of reprivatization and many communes' lack of local zoning plans specifying the designation of the relevant real estate.

The agency also carries out tasks set down in separate regulations, to mention the law on compensation for real estate left behind outside Poland's present borders. The Compensation Fund has already received zl.1.8 billion. Plans also provide for the agency's participation in implementing the reprivatization law. Revenue from the sale of at least 500,000 ha will be earmarked for this; at current farmland prices in Poland, this will be at least zl.5-6 billion.

Also worth mentioning is the agency's role in carrying out other tasks stemming from government policies, such as free-of-charge transfer of land to the State Forest Administration, church entities, local governments and economic zones, a total of 350,000 hectares. For comparison, that is equivalent to almost four years' worth of real estate sales, involving assets worth billions of zlotys and additionally, often immeasurable benefits for local communities across the country, such as kilometers of new water pipelines on agency land and partly from agency funds, kilometers of roads, dozens of waste treatment plants, sports fields, dumps, public utility buildings and even cemeteries. It needs adding that since 1997, the agency has provided about zl.1 billion for overhauls of commune and housing cooperative infrastructure. Of course there are other domains in which the agency is a committed participant: historic sites also absorb significant funds, though this is still an under-invested area.

The April 11, 2003 law on the agricultural system began a new period in the evolution of the agency's mission. The previous privatization and welfare role was modified, giving the ANR the possibility of control over part of the real estate trade on the private market. The fundamental objectives of this law include working to improve the area structure of farms, preventing excessive concentration of agricultural real estate and making sure that agricultural activity on farms is carried out by people with the necessary qualifications.

Based on the above law, up to the end of 2008 the agency took advantage of its right of first refusal and right of buy-back, intervening on the private market with regard to 13,100 ha. A large part of real estate after restructuring was sold in closed tenders for the purpose of expanding existing farms.

The agency acts as the owner of 57 companies of special importance for the national economy that grow crops and breed animals. These companies operate on over 110,000 ha and work on biological progress in a broad sense in crop and animal farming. Among them are three world-famous stud farms, including the one in Janów Podlaski with its annual Arabian Horse Show and Pride of Poland Auction. Last year at the auction in Janów Podlaski, a mare called Kwestura sold for 1,125,000 euros.

Looking back, it is obvious that no other public institution set up during the political and economic transformation of the Polish and other "new" EU economies after 1989 has had such complex and diverse tasks to fulfill as the Agricultural Property Agency. The results of surveys co-organized by the agency show that the ownership transformation it has effected over the past 17 years has facilitated the formation of strong farms producing for the market and maintaining a competitive edge on the EU market.

In the near future the agency will face a new challenge, concentrating on finally resolving the matter of state land. This will be transferred into private hands and to local governments, primarily to farmers to increase the size of their farms, benefiting the whole economy. It is an unquestionable fact that a farmer is a better owner for farmland than the State Treasury.

Tomasz Nawrocki, Ph.D.
President of the Agricultural Property Agency (ANR)
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