‘Direct From the Farmer’ Gains Ground!
The new government in Poland is responding to our campaign to free-up the drastically repressive food and hygiene regulations that have dogged the Country’s small and medium sized farmers for decades. Up until now, governments have outlawed the sale of on-farm processed foods unless farmers establish their operations as a separate business and in a separate hygienically sanitised building; something that is unaffordable to the great majority of small farmers whose holdings typically range from between 3 and 10 hectares.
However, an International Coalition to Protect the Polish Countryside campaign to change this position and to free-up Poland’s 1.3 million small family farms to operate autonomously – and to direct-sell their produce locally – is gaining momentum and is not, thus far, seen as being at odds with the agenda of the new government.
ICPPC has now produced a Charter for Real Food (see below) which outlines the key factors essential to maintaining both food security and food sovereignty in Poland. The Charter has already been signed by a significant number of farmers, organizatons and individuals and has been sent to parliamentarians and to the Minister of Agriculture and The Environment.
At the same time we are writing a new Act ourselves, in close consultation with other farmers. The Act will spell-out conditions for a farmer-friendly supply and demand market, critical to the survival of family farming traditions in Poland. In this, we have been fortunate to have the support of the new chairman of the Agricultural Committee (Jaroslaw Sachajko) in the Sejm (Polish parliament) who is a prominent member of the Kukis’15 movement which attracted 12% of the vote in the recent (October 2015) elections. Working closely with Sachajko has enabled us to form the wording of the new Act into the necessary legal terminology to be presented to parliament.
It is noteworthy that the government is open for such a ‘citizen led’ initiative. However, hammering out the exact wording among a group farmers and supportive consumers is a tough undertaking; but one which Jadwiga Lopata has taken-on with determination.
One of the difficulties surrounds the question of how one defines ‘small farms’. It is a perennial problem which I have come up against during decades of lobbying on behalf of small and medium sized famers in the UK. Wherever one sets the cut-off point seems arbitrary and yet being imprecise also runs into problems. It’s a moveable feast – and one that exposes the abstract nature of bureaucratic delineations in all walks of life.
For those who have followed the story of the farmers protesting land grabs, particularly in North West Poland, I can report that the farmers who had been imprisoned for blocking the Polish Land Agency’s attempt to sell off prime farmland to foreign speculators, were freed without charge immediately after the elections. Progress has also been made in tightening the law in order to prevent such foreign sell-offs occurring again. However much needs to be done to secure this position, and just at the time when the legal right for outsiders to purchase Polish farmland is only one year away.
The European Commission stated outright, back in 2001, that it is the EU’s intention to eradicate the peasant farming tradition in Poland – and no doubt anywhere else where it survives – and to restructure its agriculture by merging small farms into large scale enterprises able to ‘be competitive in the world market’. We all know what that means: large scale agrichemical monocultures exporting commodities onto the highly volatile global market place.
Whatever emerges in 2016, we remain committed to helping ‘hold the Polish line’ made up as it is of small and medium sized independent family farms forming both the bedrock and backbone of the nation’s essential food security and sovereignty. Let’s hope that the fruits of this ongoing struggle ultimately be felt far beyond Poland’s borders.
Charter for Real Food
In respect for the fine tradition of peasant and family farming that uniquely maintains the rich and productive biodiversity of the Polish Countryside and some of the finest farm foods available in Europe, we (the below) call upon the government to put into immediate affect the points stated in this ‘Charter for Real Food
* That special dispensation is given to small and medium sized independent family farms to process and sell their home raised and home processed farmhouse foods without being required to comply with inappropriate and unnecessary hygiene and sanitary conditions designed for large commercial businesses.
* That recognition and support is given to the vital role that small and medium sized independent family farms play in protecting and maintaining the vital food sovereignty and food security of the nation’s primary food supply.
* That equally, recognition and support is given to the key role that small and medium-sized family farms play in protecting the essential biodiversity of nature that characterises the special quality of the Polish Countryside.
* That consumers, requiring good quality natural foods in order to maintain a robust and long lasting natural health, are given ample opportunity to choose to buy such foods from within their local communities.
* That, following on from this, small shops, schools, local restaurants and markets are not restricted or prohibited from purchasing a fully diverse range of local foods from (good) local farmers.
* That further to this, consumers are encouraged to understand the superior health value of local fresh and flavourful foods that maintain their full complement of natural vitamins and nutrients.
* That a sincere effort is made to catalyse a renaissance of ‘real food from real farmers’, the benefits of which will extend to a rejuvenation of local rural economies and a flowering of the arts and culture of the Polish Countryside.
* That the government, gives ample opportunity to young and aspiring farmers, to rent productive land currently held by government agencies, for the purpose of maintaining a career in farming both now and in perpetuity for their children.
Julian Rose, president of ICPPC – International Coalition to Protect the Polish Countryside,
34-146 Stryszów 156, Poland tel./fax +48 33 8797114 email@example.com
www.icppc.pl www.gmo.icppc.pl www.eko-cel.pl