The rural voice must be heard
Julian Rose, part of the speech at the Polish Parliament, January 2002,
The European Commission Directorate General for Agriculture is the place where the fate of Poland’s countryside is being decided. We met the seven members of the team negotiating Poland ‘s agricultural accession to the European Union. We explained Poland ‘s unique opportunity to exploit its thousands of ecologically sensitive small farms and to hold up, as an example to Western Europe, its remarkable diversity of landscape, wildlife and wildflower habitats. We said that the traditions which have maintained these qualities needed support, if they are to be maintained. We asked that the EU would find a means of channelling available funds towards social, environmental and small business support schemes, this being the area where most benefit could be achieved.
The Commission representatives were deaf to these requests. They said that Polish farmers would have to compete with the rest of the EU, and in order to do so, would have to abandon their sustainable agriculture in favour of non-sustainable ,factory farming methods. Many, probably over 50% of farmers, would have to give up and join the unemployment queue. The Portuguese representative was honest.
She said that since Portugal had joined the EU the number of farmers on the land had dropped by half. She said quite bluntly: “Small farms get no support under the current terms of the Common Agricultural Policy. The EU is not interested in the small farmer.”
(…)It has become startlingly clear that the vast majority of Polish farms will fail to draw any financial benefit from the current Common Agricultural Policy and that all suggestions to the contrary are a fraud. We believe, after weighing up any benefits against the losses, that we have no choice other than to recommend that Poland remain outside the EU under the present conditions: since they would clearly destroy the greatest values of the Polish countryside and the livelihood of the majority of its farmers. This does not mean that we are against Poland ‘s joining the EU. But it does mean that we believe Poland should only join when a way forward is found that will clearly support and build on the unique values of the Polish countryside and its people.
There is a choice.(…)
However at present it is clear that the government has lost faith in the concept of an independent Poland and in the ability of Polish people to manage their own lives. Instead it is capitulating to the demands of the EU ‘s Common Agricultural Policy which will, unfortunately, make slaves out of its famously independent farmers and reduce the Polish countryside to a factory farming treadmill run from, and for, the benefit of Brussels and international corporate giants. Gone will be the great colonies of storks, the wildflower-rich hayfields, the butterflies and the beautiful patchwork landscape. Gone with them will be the knowledge, skill and inventiveness of the peasant farmers ,in whose hands the beautiful
Polish landscape has been moulded and loved for so long. Gone before long will also be the choice to feed ones ‘ family from the fruits of ones’ labour. All these values are being bartered away, even as I speak. And as far as I can tell, without a fair or democratic process of consultation with those to whom it matters the most.
Unless the Polish farmers ‘ voices shout loud, and shout now, they will not be heeded and their fate will be decided by EU bureaucrats and Polish civil servants most of whom have never set foot on a Polish farmstead .
Is this what you want?