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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » August 29, 2013
Polska… tastes good!
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Debate Vital
August 29, 2013   
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by Stanisław Kalemba, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development

Now that the summer vacations are almost over, I hope that many readers of The Warsaw Voice have taken up my invitation to visit Poland this summer. I also hope that they have stopped in rural areas and at rural tourism farms. Anyone who has been to Poland before can easily notice the changes under way. Poland today is a large construction site, with major improvements being made in infrastructure terms, roads included. Better roads make traveling easier and encourage visitors to explore beautiful locations across the country.

Poland can boast wonderfully preserved rural landscapes and a significantly enhanced network of rural tourism farms. The Polish countryside has been changing for the better, managing to retain its greatest assets while developing and improving its infrastructure.

The new EU budget for 2014-2020 is just around the corner and I am confident that the funds available to Poland from it will be utilized even more efficiently than so far. Consultations are under way on redesigning the Rural Development Program and in early August, the European Commission started public consultations on the role of family farms, and of key challenges and priorities for the future. The consultations will continue until Oct. 11 and I hope that many EU organizations and citizens will join in the debate. Family farms are the foundation of agriculture, which Poland has acknowledged with a clause in its constitution.

These consultations are crucial. One of the earliest policies of the EU, the Common Agricultural Policy continues to concern practically all EU citizens and consumes a vast part of EU funds. It is important for everyone that the money is spent as effectively as possible.

Despite tremendous technological progress, agriculture remains a highly weather-dependent sector. Plans in agriculture are drawn up years in advance and that means risks bound with bad weather. They cannot be avoided, but the methods of dealing with natural disasters can and should be radically improved. Much remains to be done in this department and the problem requires wide discussion. We can all see how the weather is becoming more turbulent and causing increasing damage. Even if no concrete measures can be taken to prevent droughts, hailstorms, torrential downpours and floods, we can certainly concentrate efforts to introduce more efficient mechanisms to help repair damage to agricultural production.

The discussion on the role and importance of family farms should also lead to a better understanding of agriculture among the general public. Family farms not only produce food, but play an essential role in preserving the natural environment that benefits us all. Environmental protection is becoming a growing burden for farmers, generating tangible costs which harm the competitiveness of Polish farms on markets around the world. But now that the market is becoming globalized and the EU is abandoning its quota system in milk and sugar production in favor of market mechanisms, it is necessary to try to find ways to curb costs. That’s why it’s important to have a broad discussion on European agriculture, with a special focus on family farms.

The importance of family farms has been highlighted by the United Nations, which has designated 2014 the International Year of Family Farming. It would be good for the year to be celebrated with a solid debate that leads to solutions adopted specifically to help family farms.

I encourage everybody, including farmers, farmer organizations and consumers, to take part in such debates and consultations. Food, its safety, quality and quantity and the future of agriculture, European agriculture in particular, are issues which concern every single one of us. As consumers, we expect our food to be of the finest quality and made using natural methods. That results in higher costs and harms competitiveness on global markets where similar products are available, but produced under less rigorous policies than those that have to be observed by farmers and food processing businesses in the EU. This too is something we need to realize as we make our decisions as consumers. The wider the debate and the more views voiced, the more reasonable the conclusions for the future will be.
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