Wednesday 25 May 2022
Home International PiS back to the countryside: Poland again with farmer-friendly minister

PiS back to the countryside: Poland again with farmer-friendly minister

Polish agriculture minister Grzegorz Puda has been replaced by veteran politician Henryk Kowalczyk, who will also immediately become deputy prime minister. Three other ministers are also being replaced or transferred.

With this, the ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS) tries to meet the great dissatisfaction and insecurity among farmers and residents of the Polish countryside.

The now-transferred Puda did not sit well with the rural and PiS voters from the start with his 'urban antics and dandy behaviour' because Polish politics did not have a suitable solution for the devastating bird flu and swine fever. Puda also did not feel well because for a long time he refused to talk to the radicalized farmers of AgroUnia.

According to recent research, a quarter of poultry farms and half of small pig farms have gone bankrupt in the past year and a half.

Puda will now become minister for regional policy and development funds, a portfolio previously held by Prime Minister Morawiecki. Puda thus remains one of the confidants of government leader Morawiecki and of PiS chairman Kaczynski, the Polish 'strong man'. Kaczynski is currently deputy prime minister himself, but is stepping down early and transferring that task to the new agriculture minister Henryk Kowalczyk.

He is the former climate minister and his job is now to “improve the image of the ministry and relations with the farmers' organizations”, says Professor Małgorzata Molęda-Zdziech from the Warsaw School of Economics. The new minister comes with a lot of experience in his baggage: he had a major conflict with the PiS leaders a year ago about a heavily criticized animal welfare law.

Strongman Kaczyński had come up with a bill at the end of 2019 to improve the conditions in which animals are kept. That new law would more or less amount to a ban on cages and unstunned slaughter in the poultry industry, which threatened to destroy the sizeable Polish chicken exports to Islamic countries.

This bill also came down to stricter hygiene rules for the tens of thousands of 'small' pig farmers. Not only many rural people and farmers, but also many PiS politicians oppose it. Kowalczyk also objected and – like other protesting PiS politicians – was briefly suspended as a PiS MP.

The PiS revolt initially led party chairman Kaczynski to sit in the cabinet himself, after which he deposed some popular agrarian politicians and appointed 'own' supporters. That is how Puda became LNV minister.

Ultimately, the Polish Senate blocked the bill due to abstentions from PiS senators. With the transfer of Puda and the rehabilitation and return of 'animal lover' Kowalczyk, the PiS party tries to regain some of the lost confidence in the Polish countryside.

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