- miniszterelnok.hu - https://miniszterelnok.hu/prime-minister-viktor-orbans-speech-at-the-delegates-assembly-of-the-hungarian-chamber-of-agriculture/ -

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s speech at the Delegates’ Assembly of the Hungarian Chamber of Agriculture

Allow me to welcome you all. Thank you for the invitation. I wish to extend an especially warm welcome to the leaders of MAGOSZ [National Association of Hungarian Farmers’ Circles and Farmers’ Cooperatives]. Here right now your president and I have been trying to recall when we first concluded an agreement with each other. It was such a long time ago that it seems lost in the mists of time. Anyway, we started cooperating – I’m now speaking on behalf of the largest governing party – with MAGOSZ around 1994; and I can vividly remember when, around 1997, we first had to take a joint stand in public to prevent the government at that time from selling farmland to foreigners. Perhaps the younger among you do not remember this, but members of the older generation may well remember that in the mid-nineties MAGOSZ and the civic, national and Christian forces in Parliament – including us – launched a joint referendum initiative. With this we managed to prevent the unrestricted sale – including to foreigners – of Hungarian arable land; and that is why we can now talk about Hungarian agricultural policy for the future.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

So this is an old and tested alliance. I remember that the weather has not always been as sunny as it is now, and we have not always gathered under conditions as magnificent as the ones we are experiencing now. I remember our events held in provincial cultural centres, our shows of strength and our recruitment campaigns. I also remember times when the sun was not yet shining quite so brightly, and instead we had rain and mud.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am glad to see that times have changed so much and, as I look around and see you, I have the impression that it is not only the fate of the agricultural sector that could be left to this assembly without any worries, but also the fate of the whole country. In this spirit, if it regards itself as a national government, the government of the day must continue the political tradition of smallholders over the decades ahead – or even the century ahead.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am here today because I learnt that we have a bicameral parliament – even if for just one day. And, as prime minister, it is my duty to gain the support for the work of the Government from the “Honourable Upper Chamber”. Ladies and Gentlemen, I am only half-joking, because in terms of membership, the Hungarian Chamber of Agriculture is one of our largest organisations – and indeed one of the most influential ones; so it can definitely be considered a significant organisation, both quantitatively and qualitatively. It is one of the support pillars of Hungary’s future, and this is how I greet you here in Parliament. I congratulate the elected delegates, and I especially wish to congratulate you on the exceptionally high turnout in the election to renew your organisation – a turnout that was outstanding even in European comparison. It shows that the state of agriculture is an issue that is close to farmers’ hearts; and that not only is it close to your hearts, but that you are also ready to take action to improve their fate. This is an example for the whole of Hungary to follow. We cannot afford to hide the fact – especially having now heard the words of the Honourable President – that there will be plenty more work to do, and that our joint efforts are far from over. The President says that the value of the output per unit of land area is an important consideration. This is so. If I talk about this figure, if I see it, I will say that we’re still far from where we should be; but when the President of the Chamber speaks, he says that there is still major growth potential in this figure.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Hungarian farmers have three treasures: the first is the Hungarian people; the second is land; and the third is water. Naturally Hungary’s economic formula comprises many more constituent elements: we also need energy, technology, industry and money. But these three – the Hungarian people, land and water – are so fundamental that the paramount duty of the Hungarian government of the day must be to protect and enhance them. If Hungarian land is not in Hungarian ownership, Hungary can have no future – certainly not a future of its own. It is also thanks to the Hungarian Chamber of Agriculture that there is any point at all in jointly planning for the future. We fought side by side with you to keep arable land in Hungarian ownership, to keep European agricultural policy focused on its original goal, and to make it worthwhile for Hungarian farmers to cultivate land.

We don’t have to look too far for cautionary examples. There are countries where conservative estimates suggest that some one third of arable land is directly or indirectly in foreign hands; but more pessimistic estimates put this figure at almost 50 per cent. The local farmer simply stands there, watching the foreign landowner doing just what he himself can do equally well. That foreign owner may have a bigger and more modern fleet of equipment, but surely his heart beats with less passion. It matters not that he, his father and grandfather lived off the land for generations, the local farmer will just stand there, and with a dismissive wave of his hand and a heavy heart go off to Spain to pick strawberries as a guest worker. This is just what cannot be allowed to happen in Hungary – at least while I am prime minister. Hungary will not be the front garden of a single other nation, or a single other country. The ABC of our life as a nation is the following: this is our land and our work; we are entitled to it, and we must also profit from it.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I tell you with due modesty and cautious pride that so far we haven’t done a bad job. At any rate the figures are encouraging. Ever since 2010, when the Hungarian people tasked us with forming a government, also with your assistance, the growth rate of Hungarian agriculture has been in the top three in the European Union. The performance of agriculture presents favourable prospects for several years into the future. Between 2010 and 2017 agricultural output has increased by more than 50 per cent nominally, and by more than 25 per cent in real terms. In seven years the agricultural production factors indicating profitability, the related earnings, have increased by some 80 per cent. Between 2010 and 2017 agricultural exports have increased by almost two thirds, and the agricultural foreign trade surplus has increased by almost 70 per cent. To our minds, Ladies and Gentlemen, Hungarian people do not need or want others to arrange their lives for them. We know our own kind, and we know that more than anything else we want opportunities; and if we have those opportunities we will find our own way as free, independent people who are their own master. Therefore in the past seven years we have introduced an extensive subsidy scheme which is perhaps unprecedented in Hungarian history. Through direct subsidies local producers have had access to a total of HUF 396 billion: 52 per cent more than in 2010. Instead of just some HUF 13 billion in 2010, now HUF 63 billion in funding is available to you, tied to your production. Every year in the past seven, Hungary has drawn on all the available advance payments from the European Commission. From October of each year we have made significant payments, thereby assisting completion of the autumn work and producers’ liquidity. In 2017 a record amount of some HUF 220 billion has been disbursed in the form of direct subsidies and transitional national funding. In direct subsidies between 2010 and 2017 – note this and pass it on – we have disbursed a total of HUF 2,726.2 billion.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

By 2017 the amount that can be used for national funding has doubled from its 2010 level of HUF 50 billion – thanks in great part to the “More Jobs in Agriculture” programme. Up until 2020, as part of this programme we shall provide the highest possible national funding for the cattle, dairy, sheep and tobacco sectors. We have also paid particular attention to sectors which the European Union does not subsidise. Therefore the funding of the poultry and pork sectors has trebled since 2010. There are preferential credit arrangements to facilitate the funding of farmers’ current asset needs, and interest-free credit lines have been made available to producers in sectors affected by frost and hail damage, as well as those in the dairy and pork sectors – which were affected by market crises. The Agricultural Széchenyi Card Current Account Credit facility plays an important role in this sector. This arrangement now accounts for one half of the overdrafts of individual farms. With due modesty I can also mention that we successfully handled a variety of market crises, including: the 2014 market crisis caused by the overproduction of sour cherries; the international crisis in the pork and dairy markets between 2014 and 2017; and in 2016–2017 the adverse effects of avian flu on the poultry sector.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As in almost every field of the economy, in agriculture a major challenge is presented by the ageing of the population of producers. With the greatest respect we must state this, as demography is not a matter of etiquette, but of facts. Therefore, in order to improve competitiveness, we have sought to particularly focus on enabling well-trained young producers to develop their businesses. We have changed the order of things, and after the 2010 election the promotion of small and medium-sized farms and young agricultural producers became a major priority in our agricultural estate policy. State-owned land has been transferred from large farmers to small and medium-sized farms. I’ve tried to obtain reliable figures, and I can tell you that before 2010 some six hundred companies cultivated state-owned land. If I only look at the sales figures, as we sold large quantities of state-owned land, around thirty thousand entrepreneurs and private individuals purchased state-owned land. We can therefore say that access to state-owned land has radically moved away from large farms in the direction of small and medium-sized enterprises.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We can also be proud of our decisions to allocate an especially high percentage of the funds of the rural development programme – more than 50 per cent – to projects and labour-intensive sectors, such as the food industry, animal husbandry and horticulture. You also know that we introduced the 80-20 rule, and recent decisions clearly show that these measures have mostly favoured the agricultural middle class. There was enormous demand for funding, and now we can see that every second farmer was awarded funding for investment projects. This means that today many small farms are receiving funding – unlike the situation before 2010, when only a handful of large ones applied for large sums of money. I would also like to tell you that we published two rounds of calls for proposals for environmental management in agriculture. We raised the allocation to 270 billion, and as a result more than 70 per cent of farmers submitting proposals were awarded funding. Eighty-five per cent of farmers growing grapes and fruit received funding, and we trebled the funding for organic farming, awarding 62 billion to 99 per cent of the farmers. So far we have awarded funding of 90 billion forints through calls for proposals for the modernisation of livestock facilities, and we have decided on the award of a total of some 60 billion forints in subsidies to wineries and horticultural farms. I know your opinion that all of this could be done faster. You’re right, we could make faster progress, but the percentage increases we have achieved in recent years clearly show the extent, the magnitude of the increase in the work that we have to complete. When in the old days only a handful of large farms had access to funding, everything went faster, and we completed the work much sooner. Now that the number of those receiving funding has increased several times, however, we are making slower progress. Therefore I ask for your patience and understanding.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In terms of national strategy our goal is very simple: instead of goods of inferior quality being dumped on Central Europe, we Hungarians are able to produce high-quality Hungarian food products. I’m convinced, Ladies and Gentlemen, that the future of Hungarian agriculture is promising, but we must also be aware that we face threats. The leaders of the Chamber of Agriculture are well aware of how many battles we’ve had to fight in Brussels: over there bureaucrats with a gleam in their eye want to allocate ever more funds from the EU budget to diverse purposes, such as the ad hoc resolution of the problems caused by illegal immigration. Brussels proposes that money should be taken away from traditional development funds, including the funds of the Common Agricultural Policy. Here we have a situation in which they’re bringing in millions of people whom we haven’t invited, and to cap it all they even want us to foot the bill. Over the past few months we’ve made it clear that under no circumstances can we accept this approach. The Ministry of Agriculture has fought well, and the results of the latest vote clearly demonstrate that the majority of Member States have accepted the Hungarian position that the present cycle’s agricultural funds must not be endangered. We can expect major battles on this issue after 2020, however. The Hungarian government’s position is clear, and we’ve consulted with the Chamber: our position is that in the future we will continue to need a common, adequately financed European agricultural policy. We have yet to fight this battle, but we must fight it together.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Finally, I began by saying that I was only half-joking in my reference to a bicameral parliament. This is only half-joking because, as a strategic partner of the Government, the Hungarian Chamber of Agriculture has launched a number of legislative initiatives; and with your expert work and recommendations you too have contributed to making statutory regulations more realistic. Let us admit, however, that in this department we still have plenty more to do. Honourable Chamber, I propose that in the future we continue our joint efforts. The Government will provide the Chamber of Agriculture with funding of 9 billion forints. Over the next seven years you will be able to implement a specialist information programme worth 7 billion forints, and the Chamber will also be able to create a national frost damage protection and prevention system from an allocation of 2 billion forints.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am also aware that the Chamber of Agriculture’s leadership is about to embark on some ambitious plans; outlining these is not my role, but that of the Chamber. I can tell you, however, and this is something that I can also say before the wider public, that if in April 2018 we once again receive a mandate from the Hungarian people to form a government, you can count on us, and together we can implement your professional programme.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In closing, I’d like to remind you that the Hungarian government, the Hungarian national government has two good and important reasons for maintaining – and even renewing – its strategic alliance with you. The first is that, based on its traditions and performance, Hungarian agriculture can be a driving sector of the Hungarian economy. We Hungarians have always been able to farm: it is in our DNA, and we know how to do it. We know that services are important, as is industry, but in its emotions and its genetic makeup Hungary is fundamentally an agricultural country; and in a country like this agriculture must remain a leading sector. The second reason is that strengthening Hungarian agriculture is a cornerstone of Hungary’s sovereignty and independence. Hungarian farmers are the chief custodians of Hungarian independence and Hungarian freedom, and this is what the future depends upon. Honourable Chamber of Agriculture, Hungary is relying on you.

Thank you for your attention.

Go for it, Hungary, go for it Hungarians!