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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » September 29, 2014
The Lubelskie Voice
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EU Funds Benefit Agriculture
September 29, 2014   
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Lublin province chairman Sławomir Sosnowski talks to the Voice.

What is the potential of agriculture and rural areas in Lublin province 10 years after Poland joined the European Union?
The year 2004 was a milestone for all of us, marking the start of a new lease on life. We had to learn the ropes of the EU, taking one step at a time. However, we had significant experience in spending pre-accession funds and we were successful at that, so we hoped we would live up to the new challenges as well.

Entering the single market presented our agriculture with development opportunities like nothing else before, but at the same time we realized that would have to face competition from farmers in Western Europe. EU legislation raised the bar for Polish farmers, requiring that they meet high standards in terms of product quality, accounting systems and agricultural practices. As time went by, the situation turned out to be not so difficult as feared. With each year, production became more efficient and the quality of both raw materials and consumer goods improved, opening the way for our tasty and healthy food to European and then global markets. Of course, none of that would have been possible without a system that comprised direct payments, investment subsidies and programs designed to restructure farms. We were also able to use funds for the modernization of rural areas.

In all, I believe that Polish agriculture and the countryside in general have benefited from Poland’s EU membership and proved successful in the new market environment. We have taken a major leap forward that has changed our essentially agricultural region for the better.

How have farmers from Lublin province been spending EU funds available to them? What kind of investment has been most popular over the past 10 years?
Let me start with direct payments. Over the past decade, farmers in Lublin province have been paid over zl.10.3 billion in direct payments. They have used some of this money to buy 28,300 new farming machines and other equipment for a total of zl.774 million. They have also bought 4,800 new tractors. Farm buildings modernized using EU funds are more than 175,000 square meters in size. Producers have received over zl.87 million for these modernization projects and over zl.23 million has gone to pay for improving or setting up 740 hectares of new orchards. In total, agricultural producers in Lublin province received zl.17 billion during Poland’s first 10 years in the EU. The funds have improved the quality and condition of our agriculture. For many years now, we have been among the country’s top producers of cereals, potatoes, vegetables, herbs, fruit and berries.

Farming conditions have changed for the better and living standards in rural areas have improved. What are the investment priorities of the Lublin province government under Poland’s Rural Development Program?
We used the 2007-2014 Rural Development Program to address basic needs and make up for decades of delayed development. We made sure to build all it takes to make life in the countryside easier. One of the program’s measures, “Rural Reconstruction,” aimed to support the modernization of public areas in the broad meaning of the term. The measure made it possible to build and modernize sports and recreation centers, culture centers in villages, in addition to dayrooms, playgrounds and libraries. The centers of many small towns and villages were redeveloped and many churches and other places of worship were renovated. Almost 1,500 projects received a total of zl.185.6 million in funding.

As part of another measure, “Basic Services for the Rural Economy and Population,” we spent zl.433.6 million on 1,034.9 kilometers of new water pipelines and 607.8 km of sewage networks, 33 sewage treatment plants and 6,926 farm sewage treatment systems.

A project to consolidate land worth zl.50.2 million covered 2,596 farms, allowing us to reduce the number of plots from 12,481 to 7,961. A total of 155.2 km of access roads were built to ensure proper utilization of the consolidated land. As part of the Rural Development Program, we signed 3,603 contracts to award financial support totaling zl.974.1 million.

Now that the EU’s 2014-2020 budget has been announced, what are the priorities for the Lublin province government as it carries out the new Rural Development Program?
Our primary goals will conform with the policy of the Agriculture Ministry, that is the funds that we have at our disposal will be assigned for six priority areas: innovation and knowledge transfer; farm competitiveness; food chain and risk management in agriculture; agriculture and environment; efficient resource management and low-emission economy; and social inclusion, reduction of poverty and economic development in rural areas. In other words, we will strengthen all that we have created so far and we will continue to modernize rural areas and strengthen the competitiveness of agriculture. We will also develop the bioeconomy as the “smart specialty” of Lublin province.
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