South Moravian Smallhold Organic Farmer Wins Environmental Damage Case Against Agrofert
After a year-long legal battle, farmer Libor Kožnar, owner of the Living Farm [“Živá farma”] in Šanov, in the District of Znojmo, has won a court case against Agro Jevišovice, a local subsidiary of agriculture giant Agrofert, founded by Prime Minister Andrej Babiš. Photo: KK / Brno Daily. For illustrative purposes.
South Moravia / Czech Rep., Mar 31 (BD) – The dispute began last April when operations on Agro Jevišovice’s 8,000-hectare farm resulted in the contamination of the Living Farm with nitrogen fertilizer. As a result, the farm lost its organic certification and several supply contracts, incurring a loss of around CZK 700,000. According to Seznam News, the 11-hectare farm was awarded CZK 300,000 in an out-of-court settlement.
Kožnar has spent the last year embroiled in the dispute with Agrofert, who have used aggressive legal tactics to minimize the damages payable, and attempted to insert a confidentiality clause into the agreement to prevent Kožnar publicizing the case or discussing it with journalists or politicians. In a press release following the decision, Kožnar said that they had managed to remove the confidentiality clause from the final agreement, and had eventually recovered 45% of the cost of the damages, rather than the 16% initially offered by Agrofert’s lawyers.
This is not the first time that Agrofert and its subsidiaries have been accused of such practices. In 2015, employees of Agro Jevišovice were accused of destroying nearly 3,000 hectares of crops at nearby independent farm Agro Boskovštejn with herbicide, a case which is still unresolved in the court system.
Kožnar now plans to use his case to push for changes in the law, which he claims does not currently provide legal protection for small farm owners. According to Kožnar: “Although the Central Institute for Supervising and Testing in Agriculture decided that we were entitled to damages from Agrofert, whose conduct was in violation of the law, we were forced to settle this claim for compensation out-of-court. And all the other farmers who experience something like this will still not have the legal and legislative protection they deserve.”
Babiš has placed his Agrofert assets in two trust funds to comply with a 2017 law relating to conflicts of interest.