Struggle for farmers surviving – by Ake Karlsson president of Swedish Small Farmers Organization
I will now tell you about the Swedish small farmers and their experiences of the EU-membership. But first some history about Swedish farming. In the fifties there were approximately 250.000 dairy farms. In 1995 (EU entrance) Sweden had 20.000 dairy farms and today there are only 10.000 left.
The total number of farmers 1995 were about 92.000 and today there are about 67.000.
If you in Poland would do the same mistake as we did, entering the EU, you would have approximately 275.000 farmers left of the 2,1 million that you have today. This estimations are based on the number of farmers related to the total number of the population. The large amount of small farmers in Poland is not a problem, they are Poland ‘s strength.
Poland’s problems, as many other countries are unemployment. A structural rationalization of polish agriculture towards the EU-model will increase the unemployment. It will also disturb the social structure of the polish countryside.
A membership in the EU is followed by a bizarre bureaucracy, it completely devastate the happiness and independence Swedish farmers earlier felt in their job. This system is based on subsidies. The application forms are extremely complicated. Most farmers has to contact an advisor. This will increase the expenses.
If you fill in the form in a wrong way, you risk to be punished or without compensation. Worse of all are the controls. Bureaucrats arrive at the farm and check everything. For example if the animals keep the grass short enough and if your animals are situated on your own land. If you move them to for example your neighbor you have to report it. You have to report what day you move them and what day you take them back. They control if your animals are wearing discs, if not the authorities will shoot them. We have several examples like that, leaving the farmer without compensation.
If you have only one cow, sheep or pig for the household, it still has to be registered. You are obliged to report when you buy or sell and who the other person is. Also when it is slaughtered.
Other example – one family had 12 cows. They were producing cheese. They had to report the amount of produced milk and cheese. The controller checked in his papers and said it was lacking 12 liters of milk. This resulted in a number of letters to and from the ministry of agriculture in Sweden. At last the farmer answered, she had forgot she poured it out.
All this makes the Swedish farmers feel offended and not as free as before the entrance in the EU.
I want to say to all Polish farmers, think about this twice. You have been living in a totalitarian system once, do you want to do it again? This is even worse in some aspects.
Also consider the agreement your government did with the EU. You will only get 25 %of the subsidies compared to what the other EU farmers get. This means Poland will become net subsidy givers to EU for several years.
Swedish Meat and Arla, large agricultural companies in Sweden has been visiting Poland. They reported – Poland is no threat to us, they are a possibility. They are right. How could Poland, with those bad agreements, be a threat to the present EU-members.
There is a great risk you will be explored by large multinational companies, they see a possibility in cheap raw materials and cheap labor.
After our visit in Stryszów in September 2002 I have been thinking a lot about Poland and Polish partners. I got very delighted in the Polish countryside and all the people I met during my visit. The proud of the farmers while showing us their farms, is one thing I remember clearly. You hardly see it in Sweden today. The Swedish farmer today has large debts And he is occupied hunting food for his 200 cows on large areas. If he gets one minute,he is using it complaining.
I have heard 80 %of Poland ‘s farming today is without fertilizers and chemical biocides. This means you have an unique chance to be a precedent and to show us the way to an exemplary production. A way of farming far from industry and monocultures, that is so devastating for the animals, people and the environment. To be a counterweight to the multi-and transnational companies, who strive after the total power or our food. I will finally say, it was not my aim teaching you how to vote in the EU election. My ambition is to give you
a gibber platform. I also want to express my appreciation for the work of your organization. It’s been very inspiring to meet you all and your leaders Jadwiga and Julian. It gives me strength to carry on fighting for the Swedish small farmers and their survival.
The Swedish small farmers will follow your fight for Polish countryside with excitement .And if we can help you in any way, please tell us.