Every year, during the transition from winter to spring, there are fires caused by burning grass and agricultural wasteland. This is very harmful to the environment and poses a threat to humans and animals. The danger of burning grass was evident two years ago when fire destroyed many hectares of the Biebrza National Park, and firefighting operations lasted for several days. One of the institutions that has been warning about the harmful effects of this practice for many years is the Agency for Restructuring and Modernization of Agriculture. It can also impose financial penalties on farmers. However, inspections carried out by the ARMA indicate that their involvement in such incidents is marginal.
Burning meadows, pastures, fallows, and reed beds is a dangerous practice for life, health, and property. It is prohibited and unjustified from an agrotechnical point of view. During a fire, the layer of vital humus is destroyed, animals and microorganisms responsible for biological balance die. After a fire, the soil becomes barren and needs a lot of time for regeneration. It also happens that the fire spreads in such an uncontrolled manner that it threatens lives and health, reaches forests and agricultural buildings, causing additional severe losses.
Burning grass is prohibited by the provisions of the nature protection and forests acts, and the offense code provides for a penalty of a reprimand, arrest, or fine, the amount of which may range from 5,000 to 20,000 PLN. Moreover, if as a result of arson a fire occurs that endangers many people or causes significant property damage, the offender may be sentenced to up to 10 years of imprisonment.
The Agency for Restructuring and Modernization of Agriculture also has the right to impose penalties. In order to apply for direct payments and PROW area payments, farmers are required, among other things, not to burn agricultural land. Violation of this obligation may result in a financial penalty reducing all received payments by 1% or more – depending on the farmer’s degree of guilt. Higher penalties are provided for those who knowingly burn agricultural land. They may face a reduction in payments by even 25%. The Agency can also deprive the beneficiary of the entire amount of direct payments for a given year if persistent non-compliance with the ban on burning grass is established.
Since 2015, ARMA has imposed sanctions on 137 farmers for burning agricultural land. However, it is worth noting that in recent years there have been only a few to a dozen such cases.
Press release by ARMA.