Previously, Rosleskhoz was subordinated to the Ministry of Agriculture.
The President said that this summer’s wildfires showed up the weaknesses in forestry management and noted the need for a thorough review of the country’s forestry legislation, including the Forestry Code. Mr Medvedev also gave the instruction to pay particular attention to forestry management mechanisms and the number of forestry workers.
Another subject of discussion was the situation with grain supplies, above all fodder grain, in the regions hit by the drought.
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President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Mr Zubkov, the events of this summer — the heatwave and the wildfires that have raged in our country — have shown up the weaknesses in our forestry management. The Government has already examined the situation and proposed some personnel changes, and has also proposed to me that the Federal Forestry Agency be placed directly under Government management. I have considered these proposals and support them.
Today, I signed an executive order making the Federal Forestry Agency an independent body directly subordinated to the Government, and giving it new powers to draw up state policy and the legal and regulatory documents on forestry resources, and to control and supervise forestry relations, with the exception of forests located on the territory of protected nature reserves. This executive order will enter into force along with the corresponding amendments to the order on the Government’s structure. I hope that, acting on the basis of this executive order, the Government will take all measures necessary to implement it and bring other Government decisions into line with its provisions.
But the main thing of course is not simply to make organisational changes, though this does sometimes produce effects. The main thing is to give real attention to this sector, to this part of our lives, and of course to this part of the economy, because the existing system has revealed its weaknesses, especially in the emergency situation we faced. We therefore need to put things in order, and I hope the Government will do this.
First DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER VIKTOR ZUBKOV: You are absolutely right in that the current system, under which responsibility for forestry management was transferred to the regions, was the right decision overall, because the forests really can be better managed at regional level, if all the laws are respected of course, and if we have solid and well-integrated links with the federal organisations.
But we ended up with a situation where the federal bodies also had many powers, but they were divided among six different ministries and agencies and thus became blurred. Meanwhile the body responsible for general control and supervision, Rosleskhoz [Federal Forestry Agency], ended up without effective powers and the only real power it had was to distribute and supervise subsidies. But it did not have powers with regard to forests protection, oversight of forestry activities, forestry planning, and fire prevention. Other agencies were responsible for these areas.
The adoption of this executive order will therefore give Rosleskhoz not only legal and regulatory powers but also control and supervision powers, including for fire safety and prevention. This will make it possible to effectively manage forestry resources at regional level, and at the level of individual forests.
We in the Government will therefore draft further legislation without fail. The tasks arising from the executive order you have signed will be carried out by the set deadlines. We will bring new forestry specialists into Rosleskhoz’s management for the purposes of strengthening the agency, and will of course do everything needed to ensure that all powers are exercised effectively at federal and regional level.
Dmitry MEDVEDEV: Mr Zubkov, you also need to look at the number of people working in this sector. Certainly, simply mechanically increasing the numbers does not always produce results, but sometimes there are not enough people for the job. Also, perhaps even more important, and not just in the context of this order, is to carry out a detailed review of our country’s forestry legislation, in particular the Forestry Code. I am not going to make any judgments now on which of its provisions have stood the test of time and which have not since the code was adopted several years ago. But there are obviously some provisions that require adjustment, including with regard to management of forestry resources and the forest stock. I therefore instruct the Government to address this subject too.
Another important matter that we discussed a while ago, a very complex matter also linked to this summer’s events, and which I later discussed with agriculture sector representatives, is the question of support for our agricultural producers through using the intervention possibilities of our reserve fund, and our possibilities for ensuring the necessary supplies of grain, in particular fodder grain, on the market. As far as I know, my instruction has been carried out and the corresponding government resolution has been issued and is being implemented now. How will you go about carrying out the decisions set out in this document?
Viktor ZUBKOV: We have of course taken all measures required to carry out the instructions that you gave at the meeting in Taganrog and acted rapidly to issue a Government resolution on subsidising extended loans and leasing payments. This resolution came out last week and is already working. In accordance with it around 127 billion rubles [over $4 billion] in loans will have their terms extended, and 5 to 6 billion rubles will be allocated annually over 2010–2012 to subsidise these extended loans.
As for the intervention fund, it now comes to more than 9 million tons, including 3 million tons of fodder grain. There is enough grain on the market today, there is grain on the market in the southern regions, in the Central Federal District, and it will soon come on the market in Siberia too. We need to make sure that this grain goes into circulation.
Dmitry Medvedev: We need to avoid bottlenecks forming between regions.
Viktor Zubkov: This work is all underway now. Things are moving, and this is very important. But as far as the fodder grain intervention fund is concerned, we will probably make use of it in the spring, when we get a clear picture of the market situation.
Dmitry Medvedev: I have a proposal. Our farmers are very worried at the moment that they might end up without fodder grain. I know that you are already doing this, but nonetheless, we must monitor the flows between regions on a daily basis, so as to ensure that those who have been affected by the fires and drought get the grain they need now. The prices on the market at the moment are perfectly reasonable. The prices offered by the grain and crop producers from regions where the situation is more or less normal are acceptable for those affected by the fires.
But we need to make sure that they get this grain and that it is not held up in this or that region. They need to get explicit information on what is available and where. Then it will indeed be possible to use the government grain intervention fund and fodder grain reserves along the lines that you outlined. Otherwise we would end up having to lift the reservation on these reserves, but this would not be the best development of events.
Viktor Zubkov: I have already spoken on the phone with the governors of Krasnodar Territory, Rostov Region, and Stavropol Territory. They understand the situation and realise that the grain has to get moving on the market and cannot lie piled in the grain silos and warehouses. I am in daily contact with the regions on these matters.
Dmitry Medvedev: Good. Keep in touch with the governors on this matter and make sure that, as you said, the grain is moving, that we have a clear idea of the demands we need to meet, and ensure they get a rapid response.