Agricultural production, like other sectors of the economy, is regulated by relevant legislation in EU and non-EU countries. Some of these form the legal basis for sustainable agriculture. In the European Union, the provisions of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) have been in force since 1962, when the first EC Council resolution on ‘agricultural structure policy’ was adopted.
On 18 December 1968, a programme for the reform of agricultural policy was presented (the so-called Mansholt Plan), which aimed to improve the agrarian structure by increasing the size of farms and eliminating those that were weak and inefficient. Although it was not formally accepted by the Union, it had a significant impact on the agricultural policies of the Member States.
In 1992, a reform, named after the then Commissioner for Agriculture, the McSharry Plan, was adopted. Its aim was:
- sustainability of agricultural markets,
- improving the competitiveness of agriculture,
- extensification of management to protect the environment,
- reducing agricultural surpluses,
- redistribution of resources for agriculture among more farms,
- maintaining the necessary number of farms.
Significant changes to the Common Agricultural Policy were introduced by the so-called Agenda 2000. It provided for, among other things, the introduction of early retirement for farmers, the introduction of new technologies, the promotion of competitive agriculture, facilitating the start of young farmers, and vocational training for farmers. The principles and objectives of the CAP Agenda 2000 set out as follows:
- market unity – the abolition of all restrictions on trade in agricultural products between EU countries and the introduction of common, uniform regulations on the functioning of the agricultural market (e.g. common prices, competition rules),
- preferences for member countries – priority for the disposal of agricultural goods originating from member countries,
- financial solidarity – sharing the costs of running the CAP. This principle derives from Council Regulation EC 25/62, establishing the European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund,
- financial co-responsibility of agricultural producers – the obligation of farmers to co-finance the expenses incurred in the management of food surpluses. This principle was a consequence of the rapid expansion of agricultural production, which led to serious uncontrolled surpluses. Initially, only the sugar and milk markets were covered by this principle, but from 1988 it was already in force for all agricultural markets.
- increasing agricultural productivity through the development of technical progress,
- to ensure the rational development of agricultural production and the full utilisation of the factors of production,
- ensuring an adequate standard of living for the agricultural population,
- stabilisation of agricultural markets,
- ensuring continuity of food supply,
- ensuring appropriate prices for consumers.
In November 1990 in Poland the Council of Ministers adopted the document State Environmental Policy, declaring a departure from traditional, narrowly conceived environmental protection in favour of eco-development, which was adopted by the Polish Parliament. In May 1991, the Polish Parliament adopted it as a guideline for programme activities related to the reconstruction of the economy and environmental protection.