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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Pledges Not to Forget Farmers

President Vladimir Putin assured farmers Tuesday that the government was taking their interests to heart as it guns for WTO membership but ruled out the generous state subsidies of the Soviet era.

Agriculture is a major sticking point in Russia's talks for entry into the World Trade Organization.

"We must always think about our own interests," Putin said at a Kremlin meeting with the Russian Agrarian Movement, a public organization, Interfax reported.

Putin emphasized that protecting farmers is increasingly important now that Russia is getting its books in order in its bid for entry into the World Trade Organization, adding that European countries and the United States "are jealously guarding the interests of their producers."

At the same time, Russia must "find a balance because no good can come from a lack of competition," he said. "A return to the system of inefficient subsidies is a path toward stagnation.

"The revival of the Russian agriculture sector is one of the most important ways to boost the economy and the futures of the millions who life in villages," he said.

About 40 million Russians live in villages, and 30 percent of them are farmers, according to the State Statistics Committee.

Alexei Chernyshov, the governor of the largely agricultural Orenburg region, said Moscow has a key role to play.

"The government must create an environment in the villages that will prevent young people from leaving, that will cause young people to have faith in agriculture," he said.

Putin said administrative barriers and a lack of infrastructure and legislation were holding back agricultural growth and urged the Agriculture Ministry, agricultural producers, regional officials and scientists to come up with proposals to resolve the sector's problems.

Agriculture Minister Alexei Gordeyev told a news conference after the meeting that new farming laws were desperately needed.

"The economy has moved far ahead, and legislative changes in the agriculture sector are desperately needed," he said.

He said current laws were mostly drawn up in the early 1990s and were no longer applicable. Some legislation -- including the law on state regulation in the agriculture sector, the law on state purchases due to state needs and the veterinary law -- contradict the new Tax Code and Land Code, he said.

Gordeyev said his ministry is drawing up a number of amendments and has already submitted some to the government for review.

"We need updated legislation that is similar to the agricultural policies of the United States and the European Union," he said. "Then Russia would have a policy that protects its own interests."