Michal Kostrzewa: Pleasures and pain of modern farming

Michal Kostrzewa loves getting up in the morning. His pleasure: looking out at the fields to see how his crops are growing.

Michal’s farm is based about 150 km from Warsaw. He grows wheat, corn and sugar beet. His grandfather started the farm, and like his father did, Michal lives on the farm and continues the family legacy.

“There are so many things to love about farming, and I am devoted to taking care of the land that my grandfather built,” Michal says.  “But my generation has many more challenges, and it will be even more complicated for the generations to come.”

Because of regulatory decisions, both in Poland and at the EU level, Michal can no longer access certain pesticides to help his crops. He estimates that he has access to only half the number of products that he used in Poland 10 years ago. “It’s hard to be a farmer because I don’t have access to the products I need. Imagine if you were a doctor and had access to only half of the medicines that you knew would help a sick patient battle an illness,” he said.

A delay to market for other pesticides is a serious problem. “When I don't have access to pesticides, my production decreases between 50 and 70 percent,” he explains. “Imagine the impact on a large scale and what this will do to overall consumer food prices.”

An acute issue for Michal, who lives not far from the frontier with Ukraine, is cross-border trade in crops. Just across the border, farmers are faced with the same insects and fungal diseases. But every country has different registered products on the market.

“Insects don’t have to pass through border control,” Michal jokes.

Grains, fruits and vegetables are imported, and in cases where the farmer had a greater yield, the output can be sold at a lower price. Naturally the consumer chooses the less expensive option.

“It’s not all about competition and commercial success, of course, but I have to make a living, and I have to be able to cover the operating costs for my farm,” Michal says.

“The idea that because of EU regulation I might have to stop farming, to stop doing something that I love, is heart-breaking.”