This year, Russia will have sold abroad agricultural products worth $24 billion. In comparison, arms will have brought in almost half that profit. How can the lives of those who feed the country be improved so that living in the villages becomes as comfortable as in the cities? This was discussed today at the State Council meeting. Several days ago, Vladimir Putin discussed issues with farmers themselves, and today, following the results of that conversation, he gave tasks to officials.
A report by Andrey Grigoryev.
The Kremlin”s New Year’s tree makes wishes come true with the hands of ministers and governors. Following the example of the president, they all take part in a charity event, making gifts for disadvantaged children.
“Astrakhan Oblast… That means Nastya will get a laptop”.
New Year miracles do happen. Every ornament has a wish, but many take increased obligations, picking two, three or even five ornaments.
“Everything that’s written in the wish will be granted”.
These spruces are grown specifically for the New Year and then planted back at the nursery, which is also an agricultural area of some kind. Officials immerse in the topic of agriculture as soon as they come in, even though they’re inside the Kremlin interiors.
This is Aleksandrovsky Hall of the Kremlin. The next one, where the State Council meeting is actually held, is the Georgievsky Hall, named in honor of the Order of St. George, who was a famous Orthodox saint and warrior. He was also a patron for shepherds and farmers. He defeated the Dragon after the latter began devastating the land, which would today be called agricultural.
Russia’s agribusiness is leaping forward, the president says right away. There are records in many indicators. Even the Soviet Union never harvested so much wheat. That, however, doesn’t yet affect rural living conditions at all.
Vladimir Putin: “The sector won’t be able to develop in such a successful way in the future if we don’t solve the critical issue. What’s that? The population”s quality of life. We need to think about people more. The people who ensure your success, moving the entire sector forward”.
The roads, hospitals, and infrastructure here are noticeably worse than in cities. Wages are one-third less than in the megapolises. And that, according to Vladimir Putin, is unfair. It needs to be equalized.
Vladimir Putin: “More than a half of low-income citizens — approximately 53%, as estimated — live in rural areas. Therefore, our top priority nation-wide task of reducing and overcoming poverty falls, to a large extent, within the rural areas. Farmers and rural areas don’t have their own separate specialized national project. However, I emphasize that their interests must be considered in each of such projects”.
And here are the first concrete measures. Electricity prices for those who work in rural areas must be lower than the national average. That’s what agricultural producers asked for.
Vladimir Putin: “It’s clear why the cost for small enterprises is higher than for big ones — this is due to voltage; all that is clear. But if everything is clear to us — and it’s also clear that farmers should be supported, as they don’t have other options besides relying on the state — we need to find solutions”.
The President met in advance with farmers in Adygea and knows firsthand about their issues. Even such a seemingly specific issue such as the production of grapevine snails wasn’t ignored. Sergey Balaev, a farmer from Moscow Oblast, breeds these are edible and very healthy mollusks. He asked for federal funding. It wasn’t forgotten by either the minister: “As a result of the meeting in Adygea, the production of grapevine snails will be included in the list of agricultural activities. This means that it will receive government support, particularly grants.” Or the president: “Thank you for the snails”.
Another story was about Maria Sokolova, a farmer from Kuban, who wants to increase grazing land for her cows, but always loses to big agro-holdings at auction. Veniamin Kondratyev, Governor of Krasnodar Krai, talked about that.
Veniamin Kondratyev, Governor of Krasnodar Krai: “She has a hundred cows. We can provide to her a hectare per cow, for example, and write right in this contract: “…provided that she keeps this livestock”.
Vladimir Putin: “And we need to develop criteria for such businesses, which can be provided with land in a specific order”.
There are numerous cases in regions, and each of them needs to be dealt with separately. But governors are sure that the country is generally ready for large-scale agricultural reforms.
Andrey Bocharov, Governor of Volgograd Oblast: “The tasks which the president sets within the development of agribusiness are very ambitious, but achievable”.
Vasily Golubev, Governor of Rostov Oblast: “I’m absolutely sure that regions will definitely pick up this topic and solve issues using regional sources”.
The legislators’ support is also ensured. They’re all impressed by the idea of an agricultural revival.
Gennady Zyuganov, leader of the Communist Party: “We have the best land and great prospects. If we invest wisely, it will pay off tremendously. It will be much more effective than oil and gas combined”.
Sergey Neverov, leader of United Russia: “It used to be called a black hole, but today we see that it’s an engine, a driver of our economy, and social development of rural areas is actually very important today”.
Russia has a surplus of its own food, and now the focus should be put on quality instead of quantity.
Vladimir Putin: “This means the production and promotion of products under the Russian brand green. By the way, I talked about that in my message as well. First, it’s a global trend. And we definitely have competitive advantages here. Food can surely be eco-friendly, safe and high-quality for us on global markets. And we surely need to enhance its competitive advantages”.
But first, it’s necessary to help it to get not only to the external market, but also to the internal Russian market.
Sergey Mironov, leader of A Just Russia: “Since farmers and small farms have difficulties in appearing in commercial networks and shops, we need to use the system of grants to support the association of peasant farms and farm enterprises and create e-trade spots on the internet”.
Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party: “The minister is right. But here we need special forces of some kind, which would deal with it. We already sell more of it than oil. And all the countries buy less oil than we sell agricultural products”.
Zhirinovsky kept proving something to the president for a long time while the other participants of the State Council were leaving. They held cardboard suitcases which had a picture of farmland and tractors. Those were either New Year presents or topic-related documents.
Andrey Grigoryev, Alexandra Terpugova, Viktor Prikhodko, Anton Kosimovich, Alexander Ponomarev, Oleg and Shavyrin — Vesti.