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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » August 1, 2013
Polska… tastes good!
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Summer in the Country
August 1, 2013   
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by Stanisław Kalemba,
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development

The summer vacation season is at its height and many farms in Poland are open to tourists. The Polish countryside is changing thanks to funds available under the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy. This also applies to agritourist farms in attractive parts of the country such as the mountains, the seaside and lake districts.

Even though Polish agriculture is being modernized, this is not occurring at the expense of rural landscapes, traditions and culinary heritage. The list of regional and traditional products recommended by the Polish Ministry of Agriculture and certified by the European Union is growing longer.

The vacation season is a particularly good time for culinary trips. The wide range of accommodation and cultural events available in rural areas at this time of year provide an excellent opportunity for tourists to familiarize themselves with the history and culture of Poland’s regions.

Spending a vacation in the countryside is also the best way to see how EU funds are spent there. The money has been put to good use; Polish farms are an important part of the EU agriculture sector. Poland is one of the biggest beneficiaries of the Common Agricultural Policy. In the 2014-2020 financial period, we will receive around 32 billion euros from this source. It is worth remembering that over 1.3 million farmers in Poland benefit from various programs carried out in conjunction with the Polish Agency for Restructuring and Modernization of Agriculture.

Under an agreement reached in Luxembourg, the EU system of direct payments (SAPS) for farmers will be maintained until 2020. We have also managed to secure an important concession for farmers and businesspeople in Poland’s central Mazovia province. Although the province’s average income exceeds 75 percent of the EU average, beneficiaries in this region will be treated in the same way as their counterparts in other regions of Poland. Additionally, production support payments have been raised from 12 to 15 percent.

Another important thing is the latest compromise on the EU budget, enabling work on detailed solutions. At the moment, the most important challenge for us all is to work out the best possible solutions to make sure that money available to us is spent as efficiently as possible. We have big production potential, but we also have other advantages that are far more important. One of them is that the number of young farmers in Poland is two times greater than the average for “old” EU15 countries. It is these young people who will soon be determining the shape of European agriculture, its competitiveness and productivity. This is extremely important because plans in this area are made for many years ahead rather than just one year.

Although we are still waiting for the compromise to be definitively approved, intensive work on detailed solutions is under way. The main objective is to work out mechanisms to best contribute to the development of agriculture, while supporting young farmers and changes in rural areas. Every single euro and zloty invested has to generate concrete income and be conducive to improvement in the quality of life in the countryside as well as improvements in infrastructure and investment appeal. This facilitates the creation of new jobs in rural areas, including those outside agriculture, which is especially important at a time of crisis. Only by stimulating individual regions and creating new jobs can we gradually reduce the negative consequences of the crisis. Money spent wisely not only eases the difficulties we are contending with today but also creates a basis for future growth. The crisis will not last forever while the infrastructure built now will shorten the time needed to come out of the crisis and increase development opportunities at a time of economic growth.

Diversifying business in rural areas is equally important. Diversification provides good protection at a time of crisis. This also includes the restoration and development of the country’s cooperative movement. We have very good traditions in this respect and it is worth returning to the roots because this would improve our chances of increasing the competitiveness of our agricultural producers by cutting their costs and increasing their profits at the expense of middlemen.
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