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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » September 28, 2012
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CAP Reform Still a Priority
September 28, 2012   
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By Stanisław Kalemba, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development

Dear Readers,
The Polish ministry of agriculture and rural development has a new head, but its main priorities have not changed. A year of fundamental discussions on the future of the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) lies ahead. This is the most important issue not just for Polish farmers but for all farmers in the EU. It is also a major issue for half a billion consumers across Europe.

Poland’s position remains unchanged. We are in favor of equal terms of support. It is worth remembering that the CAP marks its 50th anniversary this year. When it was established, 90 percent of the entire common budget was assigned to this first community policy. Today the figure is 40 percent. The “old” EU countries took advantage of these funds for decades and were able to modernize their farming sectors as a result.

However, today we face huge challenges in connection with the world’s demographic situation and the necessity to find food for the existing population. European agriculture has to meet these challenges, too. Meanwhile, the situation at present is that more “greening” of the CAP is being proposed, and stricter environmental requirements, which will complicate agricultural policy even further instead of simplifying it. There is still a lack of real-term equalization of support for farmers, although this disrupts the conditions of competition. There is no justification for historical considerations today. Support for EU farmers should be based on identical criteria for all, accounting for soil and climate factors, for example. We have one more year to go. We have to use this time well to develop good solutions that will boost the competitive edge of European agriculture and reduce bureaucracy.

Reforming the CAP is the most important thing in the immediate term, there is no question about it. However, we also have to resolve some important issues related to farmers. Therefore legislative work will continue, including work related to crop and farm animal insurance and food safety.

As far as crop and livestock insurance is concerned, new regulations should be adopted by the end of this year. On the one hand, they will increase the number of those insured; on the other, they will facilitate an increased interest in this area among insurance companies.

A changing world also requires a new approach to food safety. An analysis of the regulations in force in other EU countries and beyond the bloc shows that an optimum control system is one where the food chain “from the farm to the table” is overseen by a single organization. This is why the Polish agriculture ministry has come up with the idea of establishing the National Food Safety and Veterinary Inspectorate (PIBŻIW) for the comprehensive supervision of the food chain “from the farm to the table.” This institution would be established on the basis of the Veterinary Inspectorate, the Agricultural and Food Quality Inspectorate, the Main Inspectorate of Plant Health and Seed Inspection, and the Chief Sanitary Inspectorate, to deal with food health issues.

The need for such a body is justified by a diverse range of factors. Among them are the legal regulations in force in the EU and the growing global trend to consolidate inspection bodies. Other significant factors include the need to provide comprehensive and effective inspection services as well as an optimized use of existing human and financial resources and the potential of the existing inspectorates.

The new structure should also serve the development of transparent rules of inspection. The draft law on the PIBŻIW provides for a vertical structure of the new body. This will help eliminate problems caused by the dual accountability of province-level inspectorates to the national body and to the province governor, or—at the county level—to the provincial inspector and the county administrator, as is the case with the local units of the Chief Sanitary Inspectorate, which can have a negative impact on the way the existing inspectorates fulfill their tasks.

To conclude, I would like to draw your attention to the plans for introducing income tax in agriculture. We cannot avoid that. However, the matter needs to be thoroughly thought through. In my view, at first the tax should be neutral compared to the current agricultural tax. The best time to introduce it would be 2014. This gives us one year to hold a broad discussion and prepare for such major changes. I am counting on a broad discussion enabling us to prepare well for the change of the existing tax system in agriculture.

The tasks outlined above are just some of the work being undertaken.
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