I often talk about the importance of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s European future with people from all walks of life – students, businessmen, journalists, public officials – and the fact that starting next year the EU’s borders will reach BiH when Croatia joins the EU. Croatia’s accession to the EU will have many repercussions in BiH, especially in the agricultural sector. Last week, after a long series of political meetings and receptions in Banja Luka, I had the opportunity to visit a dairy farm in Nova Topola. FarmLand is one of the largest U.S. investments in BiH. CEO Dragan Vasiljevic gave me a tour of the large, modern dairy farm, and we discussed the challenges facing farmers and agriculture producers in BiH. As we walked around the beautiful farm, we talked about the impact of Croatia’s EU accession to local farmers who export raw and sterilized milk. Because of the failure of political leaders in BiH to address issues like border inspection points for agriculture products and meeting EU requirements for testing, quality standards and tracking, BiH farmers will be unable to export their milk to Croatia starting in 2013. Framers have also faced a devastating drought this year, but unlike the drought, the failure to tackle important agricultural issues cannot be dismissed as an “act of nature.” These are serious issues that political and government leaders need to address.
|Tour of the FarmLand dairy farm in Nova Topola|
On the positive side, visiting FarmLand gave me hope as I heard about efforts to bring together farmers from all parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina to work together to improve their situation and make political leaders accountable. Vasiljevic has led efforts to unite BiH farmers to work for their common good. “It does not matter if you are Serb, Croat or Bosniak,” said Dragan Vasiljevic, “it only matters if you are hungry or full.” I agree with these sentiments.
Meeting with FarmLand CEO Dragan Vasiljevic