Domestic farmers are likely to have another extremely dry year. In the Czech Republic, the smallest supply of water in snow in the last twenty years is currently. Not only because of the lack of precipitation, but also too warm winter with above-average temperatures.
The average temperature in December was 1.9 °C. This was 2.8 degrees higher than the long-term normal from 1981 to 2010.
Groundwater, which has been declining in recent years due to a smaller rainfall total, will thus be virtually unfiled this winter. And the situation is all the worse because the Czech Republic has had five extremely dry years. Each additional means an extreme burden on farmers, their fields and pastures.
But climate-change-induced bad weather is not the only disaster that farmers must prepare for. Because of Brexit, the subsidies that Czech farmers receive from the European Union will be reduced. In addition to groundwater resources, their sources of finance will begin to dry up.
A blow to the countryside
"We don't have our specific analysis. But we assume that the draft EU budget and thus the common agricultural policy for the next period also includes the effects of Brexit. This is a proposal to cut the envelope for direct payments by four percent and the budget of the Czech Development Programme by about 16 percent," calculates Martin Pride, President of the Agricultural Union of the Czech Republic. In his words, it is too early to estimate which subsidies and how exactly the reduction will affect them.
His words are confirmed by the Ministry of Agriculture. "The reduction in appropriations for the common agricultural policy should take place from the beginning of the new programming period, i.e. from 2021. The European Commission has proposed a reduction of around 11 percent in current prices for the Common Agricultural Policy," says Vojtěch Bílá, a spokesman for the Ministry of Agriculture. Negotiations on the multiannual financial framework, the EU budget for the programming period 2021 to 2027, and the reform of the EU's common agricultural policy after 2020 are still ongoing, he said.
"The Czech Republic, together with a number of other Member States, calls for an adequate budget for the common agricultural policy to be preserved, ideally at the level of the current programming period. This is also due to the fact that new requirements are being placed on the EU's common agricultural policy, especially in the area of climate change and the environment," adds Vojtěch Bílá. According to him, the Czech Republic will only deal with the possible replacement of the shortfall in European money from national sources after the final approval of the multiannual financial framework for the period 2021 to 2027.
Shortcomings in the register
In addition to financial support from domestic sources, czech farmers can also be helped by greater efficiency in farming. Also because the Czech Republic lags behind developed countries in this respect, it is still four percent below the EU average in drawing agricultural subsidies. Of the 31,000 applications for subsidies submitted, some will fall out due to poorly processed records or failure to document key data.
According to the State Agricultural and Intervention Fund (SAIF), insufficient registration and non-evidence of key data in the form of an area of managed land, the amount of seed or insufficient proof of the volume of own production are most often to blame.
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The problem with the submission of mandatory data necessary for Czech and European legislation so often leads to the fact that the relevant amount cannot be paid or the payment process is so slowed down due to the administration that it will not be registered and the farmer will lose the subsidy. The transition to digital registration systems can help farmers to be more successful.
Moreover, the overall package of subsidies will be smaller in the future due to Brexit, which poses another problem. " Farmers are disproportionately burdened with taking care of their fields and sitting over papers after workingoutdoors that are often not understood even by trained staff. Moreover, they are not used to bureaucracy and do not know what to deliver when and where to deliver. That is why we consider it important to save them work and help them with bureaucracy, without which they will not reach the necessary support from the EU," explains Lukáš Musil, founder of Agdata, a company focused on the digitisation of agriculture.
Slow digitization
Digital applications help farmers to manage their business, as well as to keep legal and subsidy records. This will give the farmer easy access to the necessary data while automating processes that the computer can handle. This significantly shortens the entire application process – the Office will receive all the formalities processed the first time and there is no need to prolong the approval process in any way.
The likelihood of a farmer successfully reaching the necessary financial injection is thus greatly increased. According to Lukáš Musil, if set up well, the digital system will reduce the agenda associated with subsidies to 10 to 15 percent of the original time.
However, the digitisation of farms and the associated automatic collection and recording are still slow. Only a percentage of Czech farms can be described as fully digital. However, the pace should accelerate in the future. In addition to the increasing administrative burden, climate change could be the main driver, with a greater impact on agriculture than on other sectors. Precision agriculture has a better chance of dampening the negative effects of these effects.
The Iron Curtain lasts
In addition to the introduction of modern technologies, Czech farmers want to maintain their competitiveness with other measures. Above all, they want to achieve similar subsidy conditions to those of their colleagues in western European countries.
"Fairness of conditions in the European single market is important to us. In other words, within the EU, we should have approximately the same subsidy conditions per hectare, unit of production and so on. Not that someone has bigger subsidies and that's how they beat us in the market. If we all had the same conditions and subsequently there was a budget cut that would affect everyone equally, then we are able to accept that," says Martin Pride.
According to him, these conditions have not been sedued since the Czech Republic joined the EU in 2004. Thus, the difference between the countries of Western and Eastern Europe, once separated by the Iron Curtain at the border, still persists in payments to farmers.
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"We have, for the most part, a lower amount of aid per hectare, plus other payments. We also have lower national and almost no regional support. We also have one of the highest taxes on basic food VAT, we do not have lower income taxes as in some other countries, as farmers pay, for example, the highest payments in Central Europe for water consumption. We do not have special social support and we could continue this way for a long time to come. In short, all these things affect us and show us with the economic profitability of Czech farmers," says Martin Pride.
According to him, the second important condition for maintaining the competitiveness of Czech farmers is that importers have to comply with the same conditions as local producers. "If European society imposes on us a large number of obligations that we already have to fulfil in respect of the environment, animal welfare and the like, and then we allow imports from countries where they do not have these obligations and thus have lower production costs, this must have a negative effect, and is already manifested today, in the farmers' economy," concludes Martin Pride. A typical example, he says, is imports from Mercosur, which brings together South American countries.
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Author: Dalibor Dostál