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Groups Say 1990 Harvest Critical for Poland

December 12, 1989

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Three organizations trying to pull Poland into the world of agricultural capitalism say the 1990 harvest is critical, and are urging U.S. agribusiness to donate machinery and chemicals.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Sabre Foundation and the Foundation for the Development of Polish Agriculture told representatives of farm-related businesses at a seminar Monday that their donations would be tax deductible.

The U.S. tax code allows for a deduction of twice the cost for donations of inventory property for the care of the ill, the needy or minor children. Private Polish farmers qualify as needy under the code, said tax lawyer Stuart A. Smith, who appeared on a panel at the seminar.

″Poland has the potential to be a major contributor to the world food supply, but it is not a major contributor at this time,″ said David Hopper, World Bank senior vice president.

He said 77 percent of the farms are privately owned, while 23 percent are state-owned cooperatives that have been the only beneficiaries of technological advancements made in Polish agriculture.

″The private sector has been starved from modern inputs,″ Hopper said, adding that productivity is low as a result.

″They are good farmers, but they don’t know how to farm in the context of modern agriculture,″ Hopper said.

Under the plan devised by the Sabre Foundation, state cooperatives would be omitted from U.S. private sector donations because the tax code requires the donations to go to private individuals to qualify as deductions.

That will keep the remnants of the communist system from benefiting from American private industry’s efforts and will boost the private side of Poland’s agricultural economy, Smith said.

The donations are needed because of a gap in the $533 million aid package Congress provided Hungary and Poland, said Josiah Lee Auspitz, secretary of the Sabre Foundation.

The government is sending commodities and expertise to Poland, but there was no provision in the law for the products and equipment needed to make a modern farm system work, Auspitz said.

Polish banks don’t have the money that Americans banks do to give loans against next year’s harvest to enable the farmers to buy machinery, pesticides and fertilizers, he said.

Fertilizers, animal care products, animal feed, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides top the list of items Polish farmers need. Also needed is machinery such as tractors, planters, grain drills, potato seeders, fertilizer spreaders, manure spreaders, plows, sprayers, chain saws and harvesters.

Many of the private farms are small and others are part-time operations used by families as a buffer against food shortages, said J.B. Penn of Sparks Commodities Inc. Penn has been working with the Foundation for the Development of Polish Agriculture.

Of the 2.7 million farms in Poland, about 1.25 million are producing for the marketplace, he said.

The experts at the seminar were optimistic about Poland’s ability to move to a privately controlled agricultural system because of the large number of private farms already operating.

But success rests on proving the private farms can get more food to the Polish people than they’ve been getting from the state cooperatives, they said.

Polish farmers need the machinery and chemicals by April 1, the beginning of the growing season, to show progress in the 1990 harvest.

Commerce Secretary Robert Mosbacher sent a letter to the seminar encouraging participation, saying Sabre’s plan follows the intent of the agreement he signed on private sector cooperation between Poland and the United States.

Founded in 1969 as an educational-scientific tax-exempt organization, the Sabre Foundation describes itself as ″devoted to the philosophy and practice of free institutions.″

The Foundation for the Development of Polish Agriculture is a non-profit, private foundation established in February 1988 to strengthen Poland’s private sector farms.

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