ICPPC has, since its inception in 2000, worked to develop a wide ranging level of support to protect the unique values and qualities of the Polish countryside. We have lobbied both nationally and internationally, held conferences and seminars, published articles and pamphlets and spoken on both radio and television. We have visited farming communities in many Polish regions and, on every occasion, urged them to cooperate and work together both for their own well being and security and for the future of the Polish countryside. We have consistently warned of the severe problems which other countries have experienced after becoming members of the European Union – and of the particular vulnerability of the Polish farming community, given the extremely disadvantageous terms of the accession treaty.
During the last 12 months, we have experienced great difficulties getting these views into the media which has been controlled, almost exclusively, by pro EU powers. In this situation it is not surprising that the June referendum produced a result very much in line with the blanket propaganda for a “Yes” vote.
It also succeeded in raising public expectations that “a better life” is on the way. This is, unfortunately, far from the truth as the majority of the small and independent businesses that make up 60% of Polish GDP will be squeezed out by over-regulation and intense outside competition and the pressures designed to bring Polish farmers in line with other EU countries will greatly intensify. The stated objective of the EU and the Polish Government is to reduce farmers from 25% of the working population to 5% and to close down the vast majority of the country’s milk processing enterprises, butchery outlets and abattoirs.
If this happens it will repeat the pattern of events already experienced by other EU countries where financial support (subsidies) for industrial agriculture continues to drive out the traditional family farm and large supermarket chains are forcing out independent community retailers. Millions of jobs have already been lost in this process and many more will follow.
This situation will not be helped by the CAP reforms adopted on June 26th , whose ‘trade liberalisation’ emphasis will further accelerate the disappearance of family farmers and do nothing to address the pressing need for major environmental reforms.
However, in many places the fight – back is taking place. New retail groups and cooperatives are forming and grass roots initiatives are springing up to help bring farmers and
consumers closer together. Community markets for fresh, seasonal, high quality local foods
are growing in popularity. ICPPC supports this approach and will continue to apply pressure for the protection and promotion of regional and local markets as well as further cooperation between farmers.
We will work for the development of mixed local economies and diverse farm activities such as eco-tourism, renewable energy generation and educational and employment initiatives for young people. We are pressing local authorities to buy local food – and for schools, hospitals and restaurants to buy direct from the farming community.
Lastly we call for a new vision and regulatory principle to be developed at the EU level which will support best practice, ecological farming that keeps the maximum number of farmers on the land, and protects priceless habitats across Europe. We will further develop our international cooperation with similar groups in other countries, with the objective of forming a pan-European pressure group for the radical reform of the European agriculture policy and an end to globalised industrial agriculture.
Jadwiga Lopata, Julian Rose