More farmers' protests are a matter of time. “We are fed up with politics that interferes with agriculture” (INTERVIEW)

Luc Williams

Are you satisfied with the agreements the government reached with farmers on Wednesday?

From what we hear from people present there, it was not an “agreement”, but only “preliminary arrangements”. The parties are expected to reach an agreement during further negotiations. However, I would like to emphasize that the people who talked to the government did not represent the entire farming community, but only a small part of it. According to our calculations, these industry organizations that took part in the negotiations were responsible for only about 40 protests out of about 600 that took place throughout Poland that day. At the same time, on that day (in Rzeszów, where negotiations with the government were ongoing – author's note) there were several dozen more people responsible for another 250 protests, but they were not allowed to talk behind closed doors. So who did they represent? I emphasize – the vast majority of protesting farmers are individual farmers, not associated with any organizations or trade unions. And those who went to negotiate made a theater – together with the government. And we don't want any theaters.

You represent “Solidarity” of Individual Farmers…

I am a member of Solidarity RI, but at all the pickets and strikes that we have been organizing since the first day of the protests, I appear as an individual farmer and an independent farmer. Just like ¾ of all the people standing on the barricades. We are fed up with politics that interferes with agriculture. On Wednesday, we were in the Sejm at the agriculture committee and we told all members present there clearly – we are not interested in your political games and brawls. Start cooperating and looking for real solutions for Polish agriculture.

However, your demands are similar. The government declared on Wednesday that it would subsidize the sale of grain.

The demands of the agricultural community can be divided into two groups: those that are interventional and quick to implement, and those that are systemic and require more time to implement. The issue of subsidies for grain sales can be assessed positively, because we currently have approximately 9 million tons of grain surplus in Poland, and over 30 million tons in the entire EU. The new season is about to start, purchase prices are low, there is no way to sell and in six months, during the harvest, there will be problems again. If the government decides to subsidize purchases, it is the right step. The EU should also intervene and either convert grain into bioethanol or export the surplus to Africa or Asia.

The key issue seems to be the issue of stopping Ukrainian transit through Poland?

In the short term, yes, but this problem must be looked at from the perspective of the long-term situation and a systemic solution to the problem of Ukrainian grain should be sought. This is a problem that affects not only Poland – although it affects us the most due to geographical proximity – but also other EU markets. Russia pushed Ukraine out of the African and Middle Eastern markets, so Ukraine entered the EU market more forcefully, pushing producers from Poland, Germany and other countries out of it. Hence the violent and sharp farmers' protests that have been taking place in various European countries in recent weeks.

What was missing in your agreement with the government?

Dialogue and full representation of the interests of Polish agriculture. People selected by the authorities participated in the talks with the Minister of Agriculture, Czesław Siekierski. Moreover, they mainly represented plant production, with the greatest emphasis placed on cereals. And not all species either. What about the other species? What about breeders? No one took care of their interests in these talks.

What next with the protests?

They won't end. Maybe their formula will change, but farmers will not give up. We are waiting for further government actions and specific details, and during this time we will actively remind ourselves. The theme of the Green Deal cannot be changed overnight, and we understand that. We will see what the issue of agricultural products from Ukraine will be, what will result from the meeting of the Polish government and the Ukrainian government on March 28.

How did you respond to the European Commission's earlier proposal to relax some of the regulations in the Green Deal?

We will remind the EU until the end that the “Green Deal” is harmful and must be completely withdrawn. No one has to teach us how to take care of the environment and the fields – if we couldn't take care of it ourselves, none of us would run a farm anymore. We ourselves know that we must manage our finances in such a way as to have something to leave to our successors. With these protests, we also want to show the inhabitants of Poland that the “Green Deal” is harmful to everyone. It affects not only agriculture, but also transport, energy, industry… The prices of all products will go up because the costs of running manufacturing activities will be much higher.


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