Rural life and agriculture
The question as to whether agriculture and rural life are capable of developing independently or whether they are kept afloat only by subsidies pervades every discussion held on the topic of rural life and agriculture.
If we do not want to see an Estonia with a few cities with suburbs and ghettoes and rural regions languishing in poverty, we need to support the development of infrastructure in more sparsely populated areas as well. The Estonian state’s treasury is still far from brimming and most relevant programmes are financed to a 75-80 per cent extent from the European Union’s general budget. The share of the Estonian state budget contributed to these activities is still quite low. In monetary terms, a total of 2.3-4.3 billion kroons a year has been appropriated in Estonia since 2004 for agriculture, rural life and fisheries. In broad terms, half of this amount has gone directly to agriculture. It is hard to overestimate the role of these subsidies on agriculture – last year assistance made up one-quarter of the average agricultural producer’s turnover. Presuming that the agriculture practiced in Estonia is environmentally friendly and results in diverse output from traditional, valuable, picturesque landscapes – often of only modest fertility – we have to reconcile ourselves to not achieving our aim, if we look for inexpensive and fresh food in stores but do not support these developments, to compensate our common public interest using a higher price or subsidies allocated from the state budget. It is important that our diet be based on fresh and healthful locally grown food, that we continue to have Europe’s cleanest groundwater in future as well, that our valuable landscapes be well-cared-for. And certainly we cannot forget the fact that, by applying relevant measures, agriculture can become more of a solution than a problem with regard to our global climate problems.