Farmers displeased with likely low representation in parliament, government

A cowshed in Türi Rural Municpality.
A cowshed in Türi Rural Municpality. Source: Olev Kenk/ERR

Estonia's farmers have also been evaluating the recent Riigikogu election results, with many fearing a lack of representation in national politics from among the ranks of anyone who has a clue about agriculture, at a time when food security is becoming more important than ever, weekly Maaleht reports.

Kaupo Kutsar, who ran for Eesti 200 in the largely rural Valga, Võru and Põlva counties electoral district, polling at 381 votes (a more respectable total than it may sound-ed.) says he believes that given the importance of security, no government can afford to ignore food security, as an intrinsic part of this.

Kutsar said: "Ahead of the conclusion of these coalition talks, I believe in a better tomorrow, and hope for a greater contribution to the advocacy for Estonian farmers within the European internal market.

"The situation of farmers must not decline, in comparison with that of farmers in other Member States," he added.

However, the election results did not provide him with that much hope either, as he told Maaleht that: "It is certainly a pity that there are no people with the experience of an active farmer in parliament, but it also shows that the people are distancing themselves from rural life," noting that the ministerial portfolios are usually left to last in talks, meaning it is too early to say much more than that yet.

Speaking of which, one person who does, or at least should, have farmers' interests at heart is Reform's Urmas Kruuse, who has quietly remained in place as Minister For Rural Affairs across two administrations, since January 2021, and polled as high as over 6,000 votes.

Urmas Kruuse (Reform) has been rural affairs minister since January 2021, a comparatively good run for a minister, and polled at over 6,000 votes at last Sunday's Riigikogu election. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Kruuse concurred that the ministerial portfolios, and whether he retains rural affairs, cannot be forecast yet, extending that principle to the relevant Riigikogu committee too, but also agreed with Kutsar's estimation of rural living standards still lagging behind those of the cities, and the importance of farmers' contributions to food security, adding that: "Both I and the rest of the Reform Party will make sure that the countryside is as good as possible and that the security of our country is guaranteed."

Of other candidates with a connection or involvement with agriculture, most of these polled only in the region of 300, including Kutsar and also former rural affairs minister Mart Järvik (EKRE), while one candidate who did get elected, with over 3,200 votes, was Eesti 200's Igor Taro, who said that, again, it is too early to say whether the final cabinet lineup will be good, bad or indifferent, though: "Regardless of the identity of the candidates, there is always the possibility that the result can also be politically favorable to farmers."

Energy prices and the green transition are related challenges which must be addressed, he added.

Of other relevant runners and riders, former agricultural minister Arvo Aller (EKRE) won a seat, but will be in opposition; Riho Terras (Isamaa) could take up a Riigikogu seat with 1,724 votes to his name, but says he will continue in his post as an MEP through to the European elections next year, while Merry Aart (EKRE) and former University of Life Sciences (Maaülikool) rector Mait Klaassen (Reform) both failed to win seats.

The original Maaleht piece (in Estonian) is here.

While the Ministry of Rural Affairs may not grab readers as being at the epicenter of things, it plays an important role in overseeing food and farming standards and in the distribution of support funds, including from the EU, and as such has in the past been embroiled in controversies of its own, mostly during the Center-EKRE-Isamaa administration.

Estonian farmers have picketed not only the Riigikogu, but also the European Commission, in recent years, over issues such as unequal support across the union.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

Source: Maaleht

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