The history of the agricultural public administration in Hungary
Agriculture as a professional activity dates back to old times, in certain territories
to times before the foundation of the Hungarian state. There was a certain regulation
in each era and regime in this region to control and help the work of those who
lived from agriculture and the usage of the produced crops. Our first kings regulated,
among others, the areas of hunting, fishing and water-management. Legal regulation
in the European states, including , started at the end of the 19th century. The
early statutes in all fields were followed by a rapid development of the branches,
paralleled by the establishment of an appropriate institutional system. Initially,
the institutions were organized according to the different professions.
Between 1989 and general reform of public administration was started lasting
until these days. With the accession to the European Union, the duties of the
agricultural management have increased and the regulation system has changed.
Based on the challenges of the common agricultural policy and the demand for
a consistent management of professional policy, the Agricultural Management has
been rearranged. Another goal of the reform has been to provide an access to the
necessary information for the farmers faster than before, and to make administration
more efficient. Accordingly, all the agricultural administrative departments,
which had been independent before, were integrated on 1 January 2007. From that
time on, the Central Agricultural Office (CAO) dealt with the questions related
to agricultural managerial activities.
The CAO was the general legal successor of the Plant and Soil Protection Services
of Budapest and the counties, the Central Service of Plant and Soil Protection,
the County Agricultural Offices, the Animal Health and Food Control Stations in
Budapest and in the counties, the National Institute for Agricultural Quality
Control, the National Forestry Service, the Agricultural Budget Office, the National
Wine Qualification Institute, the Institute of Veterinary Vaccine-, Medicine-
and Feed Control, the National Animal Health Institute and the National Food Control
The CAO operated as a plant production authority, soil protection authority,
food-chain inspectorate, breeding authority, forestry authority, hunting authority,
fishing authority, wine-growing authority, agricultural managerial authority,
pálinka (brandy) controlling authority and an agricultural damage assessment organization.
The organization and procedure of the Office
The CAO was a central office directed by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural
Development. The Office is directed by the President, the work of whom was assisted
by four Vice Presidents responsible for the following fields: Institution Management,
Food-Chain Safety, Natural and Genetic Resources, and Economy.
The Office holds a centre and 19 regional organizations, including 144 district
centres. The heads of the regional organizations (county agricultural administrative
offices) were Chief Officers.
The CAO centre had a scope of authority over all the country. In a public administrative
authority issue falling under the scope of the CAO, the district office proceeded
in the first instance, unless stipulated otherwise. In case of a verdict made
by the district office in the first instance, the regional organizations proceeded
in the second instance. In case of a verdict made by the regional organizations
in the first instance, the Central Office proceeded in the second instance.
In order to fulfil the duties of the central offices operating customer service
in the framework of the regional organizations and certain duties of food-chain
inspectorate, there are district animal health and food control offices (district
offices). The laboratory network operated by the Office implements all the examinations
with relevance to agriculture.
Complex Preventive Inspectorate of Food-Chain
As the second step of the consistent agricultural administration, from 1 October
2007 the food-control authorities consistently fell under the control of the Minister
of Agriculture and Rural Development, based on a Government decree on the establishment
of a consistent food-safety organization.
Thus, the application of an integrated “from the soil to the table” approach
and view was implemented, covering each element of the food chain, including feed
production and marketing, the primary production, processing, storing, transporting
and marketing of food. With the consistent and complete surveillance of the whole
chain kept in one hand, the highest level of food safety could be implemented.
Moreover, the consistent food chain surveillance suited an even wider managerial
system, with respect to the fact that the Office provided the surveillance of
plant production, animal breeding, as well as it fulfils the task of genetic value
maintenance. Thus, we should speak about the validity of the “from the genetic
resources to the table” view, instead of the “from the soil to the table” one.
Direct Contact with the Producers
There were approximately 4900 civil servants working for the Office. A significant
part of the professionals in agricultural management work in the country, while
less than 25% of them were employed in the centre, in Budapest.
The Office provided direct contact with the regional producers in the fields
of plant- and animal health, forestry and agricultural management. Certain subsidisation
and other issues were also handled locally. In the rural organizations there were
Agricultural Extension Agent networks operating (650 members), where our colleagues
provided professional consultation, and inform the farmers about the conditions
of current aid opportunities, as well as help filling in the application forms
necessary for subsidisation. The Agricultural Extension Agents perform the justification,
the setting and the control of certain agricultural aids.
Wide scope of authority
Regarding the fact that the organization is responsible for the extensive authority
activities of the whole agriculture and food industry, hereby, its activities
can only be roughly outlined.
In the frames of its basic agricultural managerial duties regulated by a dedicated
statute, the CAO’s responsibilities were as follows:
Plant production, animal breeding and conservation of genetic resources;
The national approval of plant varieties, and qualification of plant reproductive
Plant health control of vegetative reproductive material and seeds;
Wine management, wine control and wine qualification;
Wild game management and fishing;
Management, forest asset protection, timber production and related services;
Agricultural product marketing;
Agricultural environmental protection, plant protection, soil protection;
Quality control of fruit and vegetables and approval of pesticides and regulators;
Animal health, animal welfare;
Feed safety, feed hygiene and feed quality;
Food hygiene, food safety and food quality;
Veterinary medicinal products;
Post-slaughter qualification of slaughter animals;
Water management for agriculture;
The operational organization and control of the agricultural market rules and
Land administration and authority affairs are also carried out, regulated by
a dedicated statute.
The international relations of the Office are varied; besides the fact that it
fulfils its task as a national authority, its activities extend to the duties
in international organizations as a member country. It has bilateral agreements
with the assigned partner authorities as well as it participates in international
comparative trials and tests and professional information and experience gathering
or in education and organization of education.
The employees of the Office personally participate in the managerial boards,
secretariats and working groups of international organizations. We carry out mutual
examinations with more countries, in the frames of cooperation contracts. We also
have agreed upon the mutual exchange of results, the improvement of experimental
methods and the initiation of new examination technologies.
As an example, we can mention the professional management of the internationally
recognised, premium quality Hungarian seed production, and that Hungary has played
an important role in the formation of the European and the international legislative
environment since 1923: it is the founding member of the European Seed Association
(1923), the International Seed Testing Association (1924), member of the OECD
Seed Schemes (1968), UPOV and CPVO.
The establishment of the National Food Chain Safety Office
The CAO and the former Hungarian Food Safety Office were integrated into a new
office establishing the National Food Chain Safety Office on 15th March 2012.
From then on, the NFCSO operates as a legal successor of the CAO and the HFSO
incorporating all aspects of the food chain safety supervision into one single