Farmers to Pay One More Fee

By 16 August 2017

Membership in the Croatian Chamber of Agriculture will again become mandatory.

Although the government announced that it planned to reduce taxes and non-tax fees for entrepreneurs at the beginning of the year, it will soon instead introduce the obligatory membership in the Croatian Chamber of Agriculture, which was abolished by the previous government in 2012, reports on August 16, 2017.

The Croatian Chamber of Agriculture operates under the auspices of the Ministry of Agriculture, which recently withdrew Minister Tolušić's decision on the drastic increase in fees for inspection of imports of fruit and vegetables from Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and other non-EU member states. The Minister has caused a diplomatic scandal, turning the whole region against Croatia, and the government ultimately changed its mind and withdrew the decision.

The Croatian Chamber of Agriculture was not happy with the withdrawal of the Tolušić’s decision. However, the Minister and the HDZ government have now decided to support the Chamber’s request to reintroduce mandatory membership fees, which will mean additional financial obligations for about 60,000 owners of small family farms. The public consultation period for the Law on the Croatian Chamber of Agriculture will end soon, and the law is expected to be passed by the Parliament in September.

“Why are you attacking us when you know that all other chambers, about forty of them, have a mandatory membership. I hope that farmers will not be the only ones eliminated from their rights in relation to other chambers,” said Mato Brlošić, president of the Croatian Chamber of Agriculture.

Asked about the amount of the annual membership fee, Brlošić said that “perhaps there will be no membership fee.” Still, his further statement demonstrated that he actually implied that the benefits which the Chamber might bring to its members would be greater than the membership fee, which will, of course, have to be paid.

“In the first year of the existence of the Chamber, the members were provided incentives in the amount of 1,000 kunas per hectare, an increase from 10 kunas, which means that in just one year an average farmer received incentives enough to membership fees for one hundred years. Since we are now in Europe, we will fight for farmers' interests,” explained Brlošić.

The membership fee will be determined by the Chamber’s Assembly. Interestingly, some family farms owners will have to pay contributions in two different chambers, since thousands of them are registered as tradesmen and artisans and are already paying a membership fee to the Croatian Chamber of Crafts and Trades (HOK). “Our idea was to have only one membership as mandatory, but other chambers protested. Everybody is attacking us, but the HOK has raised contributions in the past, although it is not clear whether they are doing anything regarding the agriculture,” he said.

Asked about the fact that HDZ’s government is now reintroducing a fee which the earlier SDP-led government had abolished, Brlošić commented that SDP had promised to eliminate all obligatory membership fees, but ultimately removed only theirs. At the time, the Croatian Chamber of Agriculture claimed that it received about eight million kunas from membership fees per year.

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