Ministry wants farmers to contribute to new drought fund

Marian Jurečka, Photo: Filip Jandourek

The Ministry of Agriculture wants Czech farmers to put something by for a dry day instead of just relying on the state to compensate them whenever there is a drought. Though the government would initially be the biggest contributor to the drought fund, farmers have had a mixed reaction to the scheme, Hospodářské noviny reported on Thursday.

Marian Jurečka, Photo: Filip Jandourek
According to the minister of agriculture, Marian Jurečka, in the last two decades the state has annually been providing average compensation of between CZK 750,000 and CZK 1 billion to farmers whose crops have been damaged by dry spells. Last year the figure was over CZK 1 billion.

The European Union last month greenlit the new fund, which would contain around CZK 800 million at any given time, Hospodářské noviny said.

The government would not cease providing compensation to drought-hit agriculturalists, though it would hand out less. Initially the state would account for 60 percent of the fund with farmers making up the rest. Later both sides would put in 50 percent.

Minister Jurečka says contributions will not be compulsory. However, producers who do not make payments will not receive a crown from the state coffers if their crops are hit by drought.

Photo: YouTube
Contributions will be linked to the particular crops that agriculturalists produce and will range from CZK 20 to CZK 550 a hectare, with payments highest for vine growers and vegetable producers who do not possess irrigation systems.

Farmers have broadly welcomed the idea of setting money aside for tough times and say the proposed scheme would be better than waiting on state handouts, Hospodářské noviny wrote.

However, they are concerned by some of the conditions attached. For instance, compensation would only be forthcoming if the equivalent of at least one third of the yield in the previous five years were lost, while the best and worst years in that period would not be counted.

Martin Pýcha, Photo: Archive of the Czech Agricultural Union
The likelihood of such a loss occurring is small, the head of the Czech Agricultural Union, Martin Pýcha, told the newspaper.

Nevertheless, both his organisation and the Agrarian Chamber are recommending that members sign up to the scheme.

Jiří Felčárek of the Agrarian Chamber said it supported the creation of the programme. It would deal conceptually with risks associated with weather and reduce the need for financial assistance from the state, he said.

But Petr Mahr from the Young Agrarians Society says he will not be signing up to the plan. Farmers have to expect drought and rain and prepare for it themselves, he said.

Minister Jurečka says similar schemes are well established in other European states. Such funds have existed for decades in Germany and Austria and work very well, he told Hospodářské noviny.

Previous ministers of agriculture have floated the idea of such contributions but never managed to push them through. Following a consultation process with farmers the matter should be considered by Parliament.