Farmer – paper organizer
Although it is now the time of year when the fields are still resting, the land sharers – the farmers – have their hands full. Not in the field, but on the computer.
“EPS of the Rural Support Service”, “LIZ management system of the National Plant Protection Service”, “agro-environmental interventions”, “eco-schemes” and more, and more. These names are everyday for every farmer to be able to apply for support payments.
Baiba Tīdemane, a viewer of the Latvian Television (LTV) program “4. studija” – a farmer and organic agriculture inspector from Madona region – is convinced that the system developed by the Latvian Ministry of Agriculture (ZM) for applying for support is too complicated and burdensome. Baiba has a master’s degree, and after attending several seminars, she managed to apply.
“Farmers are already very diverse. A farmer can not only have a higher education, there is very often a primary school education and even less. Why did it have to be complicated that he doesn’t even understand what I had to apply for, what I had to do?” said Tiedemann.
Of course, now more than ever, the saying – live forever, learn forever. However, no one who does not have a university degree in his pocket can be prohibited from raising livestock, crops or, simply put, feeding the people of his country.
The uncomfortable question – is the application system for support meant for farmers or farmers for the system?
Tiedeman, who as an organic agriculture inspector visits farms and sees that farmers have not applied for all possible supports, is confused: “Why did the application process, all of it have to be made so difficult, so difficult?”
As the inspector admitted, the farmer becomes a paper worker who has no time to work in the field or with livestock.
“Now there is another miracle like the LIZ management system. This system was promised to us already in the summer. In the summer, it was still not there. They promised that it would be in the fall, but it was not there in the fall either. Then we started to do something. The “wars at the top” system is still there,” Baiba revealed.
New regulation, new system
Seminars, focus groups, consultations, development of training materials, extended application deadlines – 2023 was a year of challenges for both farmers and participating institutions. The European Commission (EC) has set certain specific goals that the member states must achieve when receiving support, so the approach to providing support has been significantly changed.
“In direct payments, new types of support have arrived, because the commission has set certain specific goals – they are environmental and climate goals. At least 25% of direct payments must be directed to environmental and climate goals, that’s why we introduced six new eco-schemes,” stated ZM Tirgus and direct Elīna Dimantas, Head of the Department of Direct Payments and Economic Sectors of the support department.
The National Plant Protection Service has developed the LIZ or Agricultural Land Management System.
“This system is new, and the regulation is also new. And the intention is to create such a system, so that after that statistical data regarding the use of plant protection products can be reported in Europe.
From 2026, it will be not only farmers, but also municipalities, forest owners, highway owners, who will have to use the information that will be entered into this LIZ management system,” explained Māris Kliģis, chief expert of the State Plant Protection Service (VAAD).
“300 months” spent in explanations
The State Plant Protection Service (VAAD) provides free consultations on how to fill out the new system correctly.
“One succeeds more conveniently, faster, another needs this help more. Those who have already gone through this path once, I think that they will be able to go through this path the next time, will learn how to fill this system,” is convinced VAAD Plant Protection Products Monitoring senior inspector Oskars Kārklinņš.
The head of the Latvian Rural Education and Consulting Center (LLKC) admitted that the consultants also lacked time to prepare, they also learned by explaining the new bureaucratic labyrinths to the farmers.
“We could count in months there – at the end of last year it was about 300 months, taking together how much people worked, trying to explain to the farmers what, how should be done,”
said Mārtiņš Cimermanis, chairman of the LLKC board. “The first is why do we need to collect data? And this answer was that it was not clear to us at times that we should explain to the farmers what will be done with the data, what they will give me in the future. Perhaps the officials did not fully calculate what this will require farmers in terms of time. If someone there said that this system would reduce bureaucracy, then, unfortunately, it turned out to be exactly the opposite.”
When farmers came to Slampé in November last year to meet with the new Minister of Agriculture Armandas Krauzi (Union of Greens and Farmers), it was said that in other EU member states it is much easier for farmers to deal with the bureaucratic side of their work than it is here. in Latvia. The Ministry of Agriculture does not agree with this statement.
“The information is different there, because when I go to the working groups, there are a lot of member states… In my opinion, there is no one who said that this new policy has become easier and that farmers are satisfied with the introduced changes and support measures,” said Diamond.
Improving communication with farmers, availability of consultations and, listening to recommendations, simplifying innovations as much as possible – this is the commitment of all involved institutions.