Get access

Designing Dreams or Constructing Contradictions? European Union Multifunctional Policies and the Polish Organic Farm Sector


  • This research was generously supported through grants from the Kosciuszko Foundation, the University of Wisconsin–Madison's Land Tenure Center, and the Center for German and European Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. I also wish to acknowledge the guidance of Jane L. Collins at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and Krzysztof Gorlach at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland, and the generous assistance of Dorota Metera at BioEkspert in Warsaw, Poland.


Analysts have heralded the principle of “multifunctionality” undergirding the European Union's Common Agricultural Policy “Second Pillar” support mechanisms as a “new . . . and strong paradigm” for agriculture (van der Ploeg and Roep 2003), with the potential to re-embed social, environmental, and ethical concerns into the structure of the agricultural system. Multifunctionality-inspired agrienvironmental policies arguably represent an alternative to the productivist-focused structural forces driving global industrialized agriculture. Yet few empirical studies interrogate the links between the assumed benefits of these policies and farmer experiences. This article examines the introduction of European Union multifunctional agrienvironmental policies in Poland, specifically incentives and supports for certified organic farming, and demonstrates that while favorable incentive subsidies have promoted increased entry into the organic farming sector, inattention to contextual factors has generated barriers to entry and access, creating unanticipated vulnerabilities for Poland's organic farmers and subsequent contradictions in policy implementation. Furthermore, this article demonstrates that, although specific organic certification standards have changed little since Poland's accession to the European Union, the processes associated with new EU multifunctional policies have shifted toward greater institutionalization and bureaucratization, potentially thwarting the efficacy of multifunctional incentives for organic agriculture in the Polish context.