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Polish farmers protest, Poland


Since Poland entered EU on 1st of May 2004 its land and real estates could be legally bought by non-Polish citizens. However, given the law extension of twelve years, foreigners would still need permits to purchase Polish land. Warsaw argued that the rule was necessary because the value of agricultural land in Poland is much cheaper than in the rest of the EU, which would favor foreign and industrial land buyers over Polish small farmers. In addition, Poland still has a large numbers of small scale farmsteads that represent the non-commercialized, low input and biodiversity rich pre-EU agriculture. 

Despite the moratorium in force until May 2, 2016, foreign companies circumvented the law using "substitute buyers" from Poland. They were Polish citizens who won tenders for land owned by the state and informally handed over land to foreign companies. Foreigners could also buy land by buying minority blocks of shares in Polish companies that purchased the land.

The Farmers' Protest (Protest Rolników, in Polish) began in the West Pomeranian Voivodeship, in the "regained lands" acquired by Poland in 1945 from Germany as a result of World War II. These lands were previously dominated by large Prussian land estates, transformed into state-owned farms during the communist rule in Poland (until 1989). Their location near the western border of Poland made it particularly attractive for foreign land investors; mainly from Germany, Ukraine and the Netherlands.

The Farmers' Protest was initiated in Szczecin - i.e. in the capital of the West Pomeranian Voivodeship - in the winter of 2012. It was organized by the Independent Self-Governing Trade Union of Individual Farmers "Solidarity" (Niezależny Samorządny Związek Zawodowy Rolników Indywidualnych „Solidarność"), an organization that was the successor of the union of farmers operating in the 1980s resistance to governments. Protest Committee of Farmers of the West Pomeranian Voivodeship (KPRWZ) and a protest profile on Facebook was launched. From December 5, 2012 to February 19, 2013 (i.e. for 77 days), small-holders peasant-like farmers protested at a branch of the Agricultural Property Agency (state-owned entities in 2003-2017). They also rode through the city streets many times, blocking traffic. On January 18, 2013, it was changed the land regulations as a result of the consensus between the government and the protesters. The change was made to make the mode of land distribution in restricted tenders more purposeful and to tighten the land sale system. Farmers did not feel like a feast and protest actions were occasionally organized in 2013 and 2014 (e.g. a 3-hour drive of nearly 50 tractors through the streets of Szczecin on September 11, 2013). Soon, it sparked solidarity protests in other localities across the country, and many other agricultural organizations joined (eg OPZZ, Trade Unions Forum). Protests spread acroos the country. Farmers were also supported by associations of West Pomeranian organic producers and a small group of Nyéleni Polska, the Polish branch of the La Via Campesina movement, directly involved in the activities of food sovereignty. 

It was in the beginning of 2015 when the farmers' discontent, growing up over the previous three years, culminated. At that time, the deadline for the completion of the moratorium (2nd May, 2016) was approaching. Moreover, thefarmers' protests took on a strictly political dimension, as parliamentary elections were to be held in the fall of 2015. The protesters opposed the coalition government of the liberal Platforma Obywatelska (Civic Platform) and the Polskie Stronnictwo Ludowe (Polish People's Party, traditionally representing farmers in the parliament), which ruled Poland since 2008. Thus, protests moved to the capital.

On 12th of February 2015 hundreds of Polish farmers blocked major highways surrounding the Polish capital and drove their tractors to the center of Warsaw. Another protest occurred on 19th of February 2015 when 6,000 Polish farmers protested in Warsaw and in parallel in 50 other locations in Poland. It is the single largest farmers protest to have ever taken place in Poland. The protest in Warsaw culminated with blocking the Agricultural Property Agency and occupying a centric spot they named the 'Green City', an encampment that symbolize farmers’ fight to save their livelihood and way of life. The protestors also established the 'Academy of Self Sufficiency and Health' that organized a series of workshops, slide shows and films, demonstrating the practical techniques of self-sufficiency. 

In 2015, the farmers protested against the EU’s agricultural policy driven by an increased export-led production, monoculture farming, application of synthetic fertilizer and pesticides, and expensive farm machinery. The protestors were also against harsh regulations for any farmhouse foods to be legally sold to the Polish public, and the arrival of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) crops. In addition, Polish farmers were unhappy with the lack of financial assistance to solve the problems cause by the Russian import ban erected on 7th of August 2014 as an answer to Western economic sanctions penalizing Russia for actions carrying out in Ukraine. To sum up, the farmers' demands were not only about securing the regions particularly affected by land grabbing (as in the West Pomeranian Voivodeship), which was emphasized in 2012. They also wanted comprehensive changes in agriculture throughout Poland.

The intentions of rights-wings government, elected in fall 2015, to ensure that farmland stays in the Polish hands resulted in the new stricter agricultural law. According to this law, only those who own not more than 300 hectares of farmland and have been residents of the municipality in which they bought the land for at least five years will be able to buy the land. The land could also be sold to anyone who does not fit these criteria but only with permission granted by the Agricultural Property Agency. Given that, according to the EU law, Poland cannot discriminate against the citizens of the other member states, the national government proposed that the state stops selling its land (most of which is classed as agricultural) for the next five years. The legal changes was recognized by farmers as a step forward to prevent selling off prime farmland to foreign speculators. However, the opposition party (The Polish People's Party- PSL) demonstrated against the bill, and accused the government of suppressing the liberal democracy in Poland. In turn, the European Commission launched a probe on the state of the rule of law in the country, as the new regulation could also breach EU law. Given that many other Polish farmers' demands have not yet been resolved, International Coalition to Protect the Polish Countryside (ICPPC) -one of the farmers’ protest leading organizations- has been calling upon the Polish government since 2016 to implement the postulates of the Belweder Declaration: “The Charter of Real Farming and Real Food” which outlines the key factors essential to maintaining both food security and food sovereignty in the country. 

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Polish farmers protest, Poland

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Intensive food production (monoculture and livestock)
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Land
Agricultural products
Fruits and Vegetables

Project Details and Actors

Project details

In 2013, the value of agricultural land in Poland ranged from €8,500 to €3,640 per hectare. By comparison, agricultural land costs around €20,000 per hectare in the UK, and as high as €49,000 per hectare in the Netherlands.

In 2015 foreigners bought only 243 hectares of farmland and 159 hectares of forests in Poland.

Out of a total of 75,000 hectares of state owned land sold in 2015, 9,700 gained possession by foreigner companies.

Type of populationRural
Affected Population:1,000,000 of small-scale farmers
Start of the conflict:05/12/2012
Relevant government actors:The Polish Government, The Polish Ministry of Agriculture
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:International Coalition to Protect the Polish Countryside (ICPPC), All-Poland Alliance of Trade Unions (OPZZ), The farmers’ branch of the Solidarity Union, Ekoland o/ ZPM, BIOEDEN FARM , NSZZ Solidarność RI o/ ZPM, Stowarzyszenie Best Proeko-CIS, Fundacji Wspierania Rozwoju Kultury i Społeczeństwa Obywatelskiego QLT (QLT Foundation), Stowarzyszenia Polska Wolna od GMO (GMO Free Poland), Stowarzyszenie Rolników i Konsumentów Kukiz’15 (Farmers' and Consumers' Association Kukiz'15), The European Coordination of Via Campesina (ECVC); The Land Workers' Alliance UK; Trade Unions Forum (Poland); Stowarzyszenie PRACA na ROLI

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Industrial workers
International ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Trade unions
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Online petition: Support Polish farmers protest against sale of land for GM crops


Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsPotential: Other Health impacts
Other Health impactsPesticide poisoning, low quality food
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment
Potential: Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place


Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Criminalization of activists
Institutional changes
New legislation
Strengthening of participation
Change of government. Those farmers arrested for blocking the Agricultural Property Agency’s attempt to sell farmland in North West Poland in October 2015 were freed without charge by the newly elected government in November 2015.
Proposal and development of alternatives:The EU regulations threat to eradicate the peasant farming tradition in Poland by merging small farms into large scale enterprises that would be more competitive in the global market.
The farmers demanded open negotiations with the government. In particular they asked from the state to ban the cultivation and sale of GMOs; legalize direct sales of farm products; extend inheritance laws to include land under lease as a fully legal form of land use; compensate those being victims of the Russian embargo; compensated for the destruction of crops by wild board; and compensated for unfair milk quota allocations that have left many dairy farmers with no internal demand for their products, as cheap imports pour in from Western European countries.
In 2016 ICPPC promote Belweder Declaraton: “The Charter of Real Farming and Real Food” that demands from government to:
- Implement policy that protect and promote of true qualities of the Polish countryside which serve the Polish Nation that are currently being devastated by globalization and industrial farming;
- Remove the restrictions for direct sale of products from local farms;
- Develop a strategy to preserve family agriculture, and financially and technically support small and medium family farms;
- Support eco-agrotourism;
- Take measures against air pollution in the Polish countryside;
- Ban sale, cultivation and production of GMOs;
- Limit industrial farming methods on state land and help to young and ambitious farmers that produce foods with the use of traditional and organic methods;
- Introduce organic farming methods into schools and universities.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The current Law and Justice government at least partly responded to the protesters’ demands with changes in legislation. the protest led to the introduction of the 2016 law that aims to give priority to buy land for local farmers. In 2017, a law was issued that partly solved the problem of direct sale of processed food.

The Polish government is still to adopt demands from Belweder Declaraton: “The Charter of Real Farming and Real Food”.

Sources & Materials

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Bilewicz A.M. (2020). Beyond the Modernisation Paradigm: Elements of a Food Sovereignty Discourse in Farmer Protest Movements and Alternative Food Networks in Poland, Sociologia Ruralis, vo.l 60, no. 4, pp. 754-772.

Polish farmland bill may breach EU law


Protest Rolników

Thousands of Polish farmers march in Warsaw

Polish Farmers Released – On Bail

Statement on Current Repression of Farmers in Poland

Polish Farmers Blockade Motorways Across Country

The Battle to Save the Polish Countryside

Changes legislation regarding purchase of agricultural land in Poland

Polish Apple Producers Yet to Recover 3 Years After Losing Russian Market

Interview with Jadwiga Lopata and Sir Julian Rose, Of the International Coalition to Protect the Polish Countryside

The Small and Middle Family Farm: A Base for Poland to be Independent, and a Base for Good Quality Food

Polish Policy Makers Support ‘Direct From the Farmer’ Initiative

Polish farmers block motorways for land rights, no GMOs

BELWEDER DECLARATION: “The Charter of Real Farming and Real Food”

Polish Farmers Blockade Motorways Across Country


Poland raises fences to block farmland sales

Polish farmers protest about land ownership changes

Determined Farmers Keep Up the Pressure on Polish Prime Minister

Poland: New restrictions on trade in agricultural properties applicable as of 30 April 2016

Polish Farmers On Tractors Blocked the Streets of Warsaw Yesterday

Polish government backs small farmers' and food sovereignty

Polish farmers ride on Warsaw to demand government fund

Polish farmers protest against land grabbing

Polish farmers protest land sales to foreigners,Polish-farmers-protest-land-sales-to-foreigners

Thousands of Polish farmers march in Warsaw

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Protest rolników pod Świętokrzyskim Urzędem Wojewódzkim w Kielcach 03.02.2015

Strajk Rolników 2015 w Żninie

Protest rolników. 27.01.2015

Polish farmers ride tractors to Warsaw, demand aid after Russian trade ban (VIDEO)

Meta information

Contributor:Jovanka Spiric, Centro de Investigaciones en Geografía Ambiental (CIGA) - Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), vankajo(at)
Last update10/08/2022
Conflict ID:3062



Farmers protest in Warsaw, February 2015

Farmers consider that the EU regulations will kill a small-scale farming

Farmers came with their tractors, February 2015

Tractors were used to block the roads

Protest Warsaw, February 2015

Polish farmers in protest walk against land grab and GMOs