About the ministry

The provisory government of Lithuania which started its activities in the November 1918 just at the time of Compiegne armistice between Germany and Entente Powers which ended the World War I, among other agencies, set up the Ministry of Agriculture and State Assets for the administration of agricultural sector. The first minister of Agriculture was appointed agronomist Juozas Tubelis. It is he who had to start the creation of the ministry from zero, find necessary staff, and establish its structure and subdivisions.

Right after the establishment, the Ministry of Agriculture and State Assets(MASA) together with other state agencies has its seat in Vilnius, however the withdrawal of German troops and the advanced of the Russian Red has forced the Government of the fledgling Republic to withdraw to a safer place in Kaunas. Due to historical vicissitudes, it returned to Vilnius only in 1945. When the MASA was still in Vilnius, one started organizing its divisions, such as Agricultural division, Forest division, Veterinary division, and Land management and survey division. Later in 1919 division were expanded with new staff and were renamed departments and their heads were henceforth styled directors. The first directors of departments were agronomist Juozas Aleksa(Depaertment of Agriculture), Prof. P. Matulionis(Forest Department), veterinary physician E. Nonevicius(Veterinary Department), engineer V. Rackauskas(Department of Land Management and Survey). Directors of departments were members of the collegium of the Ministry, a collegial body to coordinate activities of the ministry, which was set up on December 7, 1920.

Since June 21, 1924 the ministry was renamed the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA). Products of agriculture were the main item of Lithuanian export in 1919-1940, their share made 90% from the total exports. The bulk of the agricultural production was exported to the United Kingdom and Germany. During the years of 1919-1939, the 20 years of the independent Republic, the annual increase of the agricultural production was 3.5-4%. In 30-ies the agricultural sector generated about a half of Lithuanian GDP and employed more than 3/4 of the workforce. The standards of production in Lithuanian agriculture were similar to those of other countries of Europe.

The Ministry of Agriculture is the state-budget institution of the Republic of Lithuania which formulates public policy, as well as organizes, coordinates and controls the implementation of the policy in the areas within the competence of the minister of agriculture. 

The objectives of the Ministry of Agriculture is to shape public policy in the areas of agri-food sector, fisheries (except for conservation and control of fish stocks in inland waters), rural development, land reform, land-use planning, geodesy, cartography, real estate cadastre, state control of land use, engineering development and technical progress of infrastructure in agricultural and rural areas, development of renewable energy resources, research training, education, application of innovative technologies in the fields of agriculture, food industry and fisheries, land reclamation and reclamation investment, plant production, livestock sector, plant protection, seed production, breeding, fish farming, phytosanitary and veterinary, and national heritage, as well as organize, coordinate and control the implementation of the above public policy.

Already in 1921 the then minister of Agriculture Jonas Aleksa put forward the proposal, that Lithuania should follow the example of other Western countries and establish a body representing farmers, styled as Agricultural Chamber or Agricultural council. It has been done only on December 19, 1926, when the Act on Agricultural Chamber was adopted. Yet for the time being the Agricultural Chamber remained in fact inactive and did not conduct any significant activity. The congress of farmers which took place in the spring of 1928 could be considered as the second birth of the Agricultural Chamber. The members of the Chamber unanimously elected J. Aleksa chairman of the board. It was the only time when a minister of agriculture simultaneously was also at the helm of the Agricultural Chamber, albeit for a short time.

Agricultural Chamber and the Ministry had a clear distribution of functions. Ministry formulated main issues of strategy and policy, while the Chamber elaborated them in details and put in practice.

J. Aleksa’s term of office of 12 years as the Minister of Agriculture was longest in the prewar period. J.Tubelis, who worked first as the Minister of finance and later as the Prime Minister has also contributed greatly to the enhancement of Lithuanian agricultural sector. We should also not forget the only farmer in the charge of the Minister of Agriculture, the agronomist Stasys Putvinskis-Putvis who held this position in 1935-1938. He particularly focused on strong links between the Ministry and farmers and their organizations. Still another noteworthy minister of Agriculture was Mykolas Krupavicius, who was main architect of the radical land reform announced in 1922.

In 1938 the structure of the Ministry consisted of Minister and other top officers, advisory and auxiliary bodies and its large subdivisions departments. The most important departments were departments of Agricultural Reform, Land Management, Agriculture, Veterinary, and Forestry.

The charge of the Director General (the top non-political officer in the Ministry) was held in 1929-1937 by F. Grigaliunas and in 1937-1940 by J.Skaisgiris.

Every year the Government allotted 13-16% of the annual budget to the Ministry. From this budget the Ministry covered its expenses, including those of the Chamber of Agriculture.

On June 15, 1940 the Red Army of the Soviet Union invaded and occupied Lithuania. Two days later the occupying power appointed so-called “People’s Government”. The minister of agricultural in this “government” was the agronomist Matas Mickis who was one the 20 members of the Lithuanian delegation who participated in the meeting of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR which has sealed the annexation of Lithuania to the Soviet Union. The Soviet propaganda told that the delegation brought “the sun of Stalin” from Moscow to Lithuania. The occupation of 1940 destroyed the market-oriented structure of the Lithuanian agriculture, radically changed the structure of land ownership and use and started introducing soviet agricultural structures.

So-called “People’s Seimas(Parliament)” elected in rigged elections under the direct supervision of the authorities of the occupying power soon adopted an illegal declaration which declared land to be “the property of the entire people”(i.e. the state property). On August 26, 1940 the Ministry of Agriculture was renamed “the People’s Commissariat of Agriculture” started implementing the Soviet land reform which in the first stage foresaw the distribution of land taken from larger farms (without any compensation to former owners) among smaller and poorer farmers and agricultural workers. The main aim of the reform was to sow discord among the farmer and rural population of Lithuania and to expand the support basis for Soviet policies. The land reform, the implementation of which lasted until November 1940, redistributed the land area comprising 15% of the Lithuanian territory. In the fall of 1940 it became more and more apparent that long term Soviet policy in Lithuania aim at forcible collectivization which was especially abhorred by Lithuanian farmers who since times immemorial lived and worked on individual farms. The main administrative tool used to promote forced collectivization was tax policies, whereby the Soviet state established so heavy tax obligations for farmers that it was no way to fulfill, however farmers having tax arrears were severely punished by Bolsheviks. Even farmers who got land from the Soviet state turned desperate from Soviet tax policies and fear of impending collectivization, some of them even started to give land plots “donated” to them by the Soviet authorities during the Soviet land reform. In June 1940 Soviet conducted the first large scale deportation of Lithuanian to Siberia, which included many farmers, mostly larger ones. About 3500 of the most skilled and enterprising farmers were deported.

The war between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union started on June 22, 1941. On the first day of the conflict, Lithuanian people staged an uprising against the hated regime of the Soviet occupation. Even before the arrival of the German army, Lithuanian rebels took over Kaunas and set up the Provisory Government which declared the reestablishment of free and independent Lithuanian state. Prof B. Vitkus and J.Venclova were appointed respectively the Minister and Vice-minister of Agriculture.

The “People’s Commissariate” of Agriculture was again reorganized into the Ministry of Agriculture and took over institutions reorganized or newly established by the Soviet occupation administration, such as the People’s commissariat of state grain and animal farms, the Forestry office, the Lithuanian branch of the USSR state seed fund, the Lithuanian branch of the USSR grain purchasing board, the Fisheries office, the Agriculture product quality inspection under the State Inspection, and others.

On July, 17 1941 the Provisory Government has adopted the “Declaration on economical matters” which declared Lithuanian economy shall be based on private property, and that the private property, together with public property of the nation, is essential and indispensable for the enhancement of the well-being of the nation. On the same day the Cabinet approved the Law on Restitution of Land Ownership which was submitted to the Cabinet of Minister.

Unfortunately, the Nazi occupants barely tolerated the activities of the New Provisory Government only one month since the beginning of the war. The highest leadership of German Reich and the Nazi Party refused to recognize the independence of Lithuania, aiming to convert it to a colonial structure subject to German exploitation and colonization. German authorities merely tolerated a certain degree of self-government. On August 8, 1941 German authorities disbanded the Provisory Government, creating in the place of ministries (including the Ministry of Agriculture) “offices” lead by “general councilors” which had to report directly to the Nazi Generalkomissar and his administration and had to fulfill all their commands. Some of the decisions of the Provisory Government (including the decree about denationalization) which did not suit the goals of Nazis were revoked.

The German administration also imposed harsh taxes and agricultural production requisitions on farmers and severely prosecuted and punished (including imprisonment in concentration camps or death penalties) those of them who were unwilling und unable to fulfill imposed obligations.

During the World War II, Lithuania sustained considerable damage, 15000 residential houses were destroyed, 25000 farms were left without owners, and the area under crops diminished by 190000 hectares.

During July 1944 – January 1945 the Red Army retook the entire Lithuanian territory and proceeded to re-implant the Soviet administration which had fled in 1941. In the second half of 1944 Soviet institutions, including the People’s commissariat of agriculture and the People’s commissariat of state grain and animal farms, resumed their activities. During first years of the second Soviet occupation, state bodies, administering the agricultural sector, underwent numerous reorganization, their nomenclature and structure were in constant flux. In 1946 after the reorganization of people’s commissariats into ministries, state authorities set up three ministries – ministry of crop production, ministry of animal husbandry and ministry of technical crops. On February 27, 1947 the first to ministries were amalgamated into one Ministry of Agriculture, and on March 19, 1947 the new Ministry of Soviet State farms was set up. Anyway, the most important decisions concerning all spheres of life in occupied Lithuania, including agriculture were taken not in these local bodies but by the central leadership of the Communist Party in Moscow.

Soviet occupational administration resumed the divisive “land reform” which they have started in 1940, however the armed resistance of nationalist guerillas which included large masses of farmers in its ranks, forced occupants to postpone collectivization for several years. Once again, the soviet pursued their policies of confiscations of movable and non-movable property of farmers, and imposed heavy burden of monetary and natural taxes. In 1947 the policy of the destruction of economically more viable farms took full speed, paving the way force forcible process of mass collectivization. If means of economical repression yielded no effect, occupants resorted to naked and brutal violence. Once of the most merciless means of intimidation were mass deportations of farmers and their families to Siberia and other regions of the Asiatic part of the USSR. In 1948 alone the number of deportees exceeded 70000 people and 98.3% of them were farmers and their families.

Especially hard the Soviet reprisals hit economically strong farmers who, according to the communist ideology, were called “kulaks” (exploiters of people). The number Lithuanian farmers decreased by 44000 or 9% during 3 postwar years. In 1948 the Communist Partly overtly started the forced collectivization campaign. Until 1952 it was completed, about 400000 private farms were merged into state farms(sovkhozes) or collective farms(kolkhozes, which theoretically were run by the “collective” of peasants but in fact were just another name for state farms and their “members” nothing more than simple agricultural workers). The agricultural production decreased dramatically, hundreds of thousands of hectares of agricultural land were left and grew with bushes and shrubs. Newly established kolkhozes were many times reorganized, the most often new larger farms were created from the amalgamation of smaller ones. The forced collectivization pushed Lithuanian countryside towards greatest economical collapse and social degradation. The economical indicators in 1956-58 were still below of those before 1940.

The Ministry of Agriculture was reestablished again in 1965, after the reorganization of the former Ministry of Agricultural Production and Supplies. In 1985 the administration of the agricultural sector in the USSR was restructured again, and the new administrating body was called the State Agro-industrial committee on the USSR level and State agro-industrial committee of the Lithuanian SSR (officially set up in December 16, 1985) on the “republican” (local) level. This structure lasted until October 1, 1989. During the period of Soviet occupation the ministry was many times renamed and restructured. During much of the Soviet period there were not one but several bodies administrating different subsectors of the agriculture and food sectors. The changes of top administrators were also frequent, although there were exceptions, as agronomist Medardas Grigaliunas who held the charge of minister during 23 years. Both he and his predecessor Vytautas Vazalinskas were considered by their contemporaries outstanding personalities of their time who were able to bring some positive changes in agriculture and rural sector.

On March 11, 1991 the elected Supreme Council (renamed later officially Reconstituent Seimas (Parliament)) has adopted the Act of Restoration of the Independent Republic of Lithuania, and several days later, on March 17 appointed first Government of the restored state. The Ministry of Agriculture was reestablished on March 22, 1990 when the Supreme Council adopted the Act of Government of the Republic of Lithuania. In independent Lithuania functions and activities of the Ministry underwent change. In addition to agriculture, its sphere of regulation now included food industry and fisheries. The ministry had to create favorable legal and economical environment for building institutions necessary for development of agriculture and food sectors and rural areas.

Since the very first days of the restored Lithuanian Republic, it has started its independent agrarian policies starting with land reform. Since 1997 the state has started to formulate and shape its agricultural policies on the basis of private agricultural production and market economy. Since 2004 the Ministry has been formulating and implementing it on-going agricultural and rural policies.

The development of Lithuanian agricultural policies has gone through three distinct stages since the restoration of independence:

  • 1990-1996 – cardinal reforms, liberating from the consequences of Soviet occupation
  • 1997-2003 – adaptation of agriculture, industry and business to the environment of market economy
  • from 2004 – development of agro-food and rural sectors after the Lithuanian accession to the EU.

Since its EU accession in 2004, Lithuania not only has joined the common European market, but also joined measures of the EU structural policy which aim at reducing by financial means existing social and economical inequalities among the EU regions and improve competition of less developed regions. Lithuanian rural people together with agricultural and food business have opportunity to become beneficiaries of the EU support measures.

The European financial support is really impressive. During the period of 2004-2008 6.606 billions of Litas of support (direct payments, investments and compensations) were injected into Lithuanian agricultural sector, whereas only 1.814 billions of Litas were allotted to agriculture from the national budget. Such lavish financial help had profound effect on agricultural sector, it allowed open and develop new markets, promote export, raise income of farmers and guarantee its stability, enhance investment potential and competitiveness in domestic and foreign markets, and accelerate modernization and cooperation processes. Agricultural sector has developed potential of competing in international markets, while rural areas turned more attractive for residents and businesspeople, and their infrastructure has been significantly improved. It is calculated that the EU support makes 25% of the total income of agricultural and contributes significantly to its financial vitality.

There were 10 ministers of agriculture since the restoration of independence in 1990.

  • Vytautas Knašys March 22, 1990 – February 26, 1991
  • Rimvydas Survila February 26, 1991 – December 31, 1992
  • Rimantas Karazija December 31, 1991 – September 26, 1994
  • Vytautas Einoris December 6, 1994 – December 6, 1996
  • Vytautas Knašys(second time) – December 6, 1996 – March 25, 1998
  • Edvardas Makelis March 25, 1998 – November 9, 2000
  • Kęstutis Kristinaitis November 11, 2000 – September 21, 2001
  • Jeronimas Kraujelis September 31, 2001 – December 14, 2004
  • Kazimiera Danutė Prunskienė December 15, 2004 – December 9, 2008
  • Kazys Starkevičius December 10, 2008 – December 12, 2012
  • Prof. Vigilijus Jukna December 13, 2012 – July 9, 2014
  • Virginija Baltraitienė July 17, 2014 – present
Last updated: 13-08-2015