The Slovenia Times

Parliamentary committee endorses Podgoršek


Ljubljana - Jože Podgoršek, the candidate for the new agriculture minister and currently a state secretary at the ministry, was unanimously endorsed by the parliamentary Agriculture Committee on Monday. If appointed, Podgoršek would like to boost food self-sufficiency and focus on sustainable development.

A total of 10 MPs, who agreed Podgoršek's vision was adequate, voted for his nomination, with none voting against him.

In his hearing before the committee, Podgoršek said the focus would also be on ensuring safe food and an effective drawing on EU funds, with a special emphasis on environmental conservation efforts. He lauded the Food Safety Administration for its work.

He also said that Slovenian farming had been faced with many challenges, however the sector also had a great potential. One of the major challenges is a lack of self-sufficiency, the importance of which came further to the forefront during the coronavirus pandemic.

Podgoršek would enhance the resilience of self-sufficiency by stepping up investments in development, exchanging know-how and promoting digitalisation.

He believes the ministry is well-prepared for the second wave of infections and plans certain amendments, including measures to prevent African swine fever, which he sees as a growing threat.

Another challenge will be a reform of the EU's joint agriculture policy, he said.

He also aims to reform land law and the farmland and forest fund, and continue with the amendments to the agriculture act.

He also announced an inquiry into allegations of wrongdoing at Slovenian State Forests to ensure its operations are in line with the set targets, and boost its efficiency.

Violeta Tomić of the opposition Left asked Podgoršek how he would boost the value of Slovenian timber, to which he replied the ministry would support domestic wood processing and manufacturing.

A number of MPs, including Predrag Baković of the opposition SocDems, warned about the precarious position of the elderly in rural areas. Podgoršek agreed that many of them were getting pensions that were not enough to cover basic needs, saying he would tackle the issue. However, the relevant measures should not be unlawful state aid, he added.

He is also aware of the problems of small wine growers and fruit producers and would address them as well. Another important issue for him is discussing the regulation of industrial hemp.

There is a number of candidates to replace him as state secretary if he is appointed minister, Podgoršek told the press ahead of the hearing, adding that there was also the possibility this post would go to a member of another coalition party, if he is appointed minister.

The 46-year-old with a PhD in agrarian economics from the Ljubljana Biotechnical Faculty was nominated to take over at the helm of the ministry by the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) after Aleksandra Pivec resigned as agriculture minister and also left the party a week ago.

Commenting on today's unanimous support at committee, he said he was happy, as there is a period ahead when a lot will have to be done.

The National Assembly will meet for a plenary to vote on his nomination on Thursday.


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