Italy, green light for the CAA monopoly on EU aid in agriculture

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Monopolio CAA

On 8 February 2024, the State-Regions conference approved the draft decree of the Ministry of Agriculture which affirms the monopoly of the large CAA (Agricultural Assistance Centres) in the management of requests for contributions from the common agricultural policy (CAP).

Francesco Borriello – the former manager of the legislative area of ​​Coldiretti now head of cabinet of ‘his’ minister of agriculture (1) – thus fulfills his first mission, excessive power and money for Coldiretti to the detriment of Italian farmers. That’s how. #CleanSpades.

1) Management of aid in agriculture, Coldiretti’s ‘tailor-made’ measures

The draft decree prepared by Raffaele Borriello for the ‘brother-in-law’ Francesco Lollobrigida definitively restricts access to the SIAN (National Agricultural Information System) registers to CAA only, excluding the over 2.500 freelancers who have always carried out this work, as we have seen. (2)

Freelancers, it should be remembered, had already been excluded from the possibility of managing the procedures for admission to public contributions with a resolution of the then general director of AGEA (General Agency for the Provision of Aid) Francesco Papa Pagliardini, member of the magic circle of Coldiretti who now works in Federconsorzi 2 alias CAI SpA. (3)

The Council of State had, among other things, annulled the three sentences of the Lazio TAR which recognized the professional orders involved – agronomists, agrotechnicians and graduate agrotechnicians, agricultural experts, forestry doctors – the right to continue these activities, in breach of the principle of free competition engraved in the stone of the TFEU ​​(Treaty for the Functioning of the European Union). (4)

2) CAA, the Coldiretti monopoly

Coldiretti’s dominant position on the market for management services of European aid in agriculture, already strengthened with Gabriele Papa Pagliardini’s AGEA resolutions which excluded freelancers, is now approaching a monopoly by virtue of three factors:

– the excessive power achieved by Coldiretti in the last two decades, thanks to the aggressive policies of Vincenzo Gesmundo who devoured the membership fees of the other agricultural confederations

– the selective and burdensome conditions imposed on the CAA to be able to stipulate agreements with the national (AGEA) and regional paying agencies. Disproportionate measures, the sole purpose of which is to eliminate competition

– the extension to CAAs authorised under the decree under review of other functions and services, in agreement with various public bodies, which will increase their power and turnover.

3) MASAF decree. The ‘new’ CAA

The only CAAs allowed to manage practices for contributions in agriculture – according to the dictates set out in the latest draft of the Coldiretti – Borriello – Lollobrigida (5) decree – must meet the following requirements

CAAs must be managed exclusively by corporations with a fully paid-up capital of no less than €51.646, specifically established by persons authorised to set up authorised agricultural assistance centres, with certified balance sheets (Articles 1,10.3)

– ‘the requesting companies take out a civil liability policy, with a maximum covered risk equal to at least 2.065.827 euros‘ which the Regions can decide to increase (art. 8)

– ‘operators who are part of a CAA cannot provide consultancy financed with public resources‘ (Article 7)

– ‘the minimum territorial scope of operation of the CAA coincides with the territory of the region or an autonomous province‘ (art. 9).

3.1) Authorized CAA, objective requirements

Free competition in the provision of agricultural assistance services is also distorted by prescribing objective requirements tailored to the large confederations. In particular:

– ‘the availability of premises used for the exercise of the CAA’s activities, exclusively or simultaneously with the exercise of the activity of the Authorized Tax Assistance Center (CAF)‘ must be guaranteed (Article 10)

– ‘the premises must be easily identifiable by means of specific signs, accessible to the public for at least five hours a day and for at least two days a week, and

– the presence of a number of employees must be guaranteed such as to ensure an operator/user ratio which in any case does not exceed an average number of files per operator, equal to 350 active files which have a total average company size in terms of surface area of ​​no more than 9.000 hectares‘ (Article 10).

3.2) Organizational costs

Organizational burdens in turn exclude the use of freelancers, as well as including additional certification costs (ISO 27001). ‘For the purposes of carrying out the activities delegated by the paying agencies in agreement, the CAAs:

– employ exclusively full-time or part-time salaried operators with the CAA‘ or with the companies affiliated with them (6)

– ‘ensure the separation between the functions of admissibility (verification of completeness, adequacy and formal correctness), reception and registration of applications, claims and declarations in the interest of the producer, registration in the information systems of data and documents, and the function of validation in the information systems of data and documents on behalf of the delegating public entities‘ (Article 12).

3.3) Mandate with a two-year commitment

A restriction on the contractual autonomy and freedom of choice of service providers by farmers is then defined by decree, where the mandate of farms to CAAs must last at least until 31 December of the year following the date of its signature in order to guarantee the management of utilities by the paying agencies and other interested bodies‘ (Article 19).

3.4) Other delegated functions

The paying agencies may delegate to the CAAs the activities of updating the Farm Register and, in particular, the establishment, updating and custody of the farm file‘.

The same paying agencies – in addition to the Regions, Autonomous Provinces of Trento and Bolzano and other public bodies – may delegate to the CAA, through agreements, ‘the functions of acceptance and registration in the Information Systems of the requests, declarations, requests for aid, support and payment that producers intend to present‘ (Article 2).

3.5) CAA, complementary services

The dominant positions of CAAs and their service companies may spread like wildfire, even to the detriment of other categories of self-employed professionals (e.g. accountants, surveyors, accountants). In fact, ‘after signing any specific agreements with the competent bodies, they may perform the following additional activities:

a) keep and possibly preserve the users’ accounting records

b) assist users in the processing and transmission of cultivation and production declarations, making use of the procedures made available by the administrations concerned, as well as in the processing and transmission of requests and declarations relating to the administrative procedures of interest for their agricultural activity 

c) assist users in processing applications for admission to community, national and regional benefits

d) consulting, in the interest of users, the SIAN databases in order to check the status of each file

e) collect the basic data for the performance of official agricultural statistics (…) after stipulating specific agreements, even for a fee, with ISTAT and the other entities of the National Statistical System.

As that wasn’t enough the CAAs, ‘subject to a mandate from their users, ascertain and certify facts or circumstances of a technical nature, concerning situations or certain data relating to the exercise of the business activity, without prejudice to the activities reserved by law for qualified professionals‘ (Article 2).

3.6) Public fees

Rich prizes and cotillion are also foreseen in the fees to the CAAs that the delegating administrations will be able to determine by providing, an incentive system that takes into account the CAA’s organisational structure and the time taken to complete all the stages of the procedure, (…) as well as the contribution to achieving the dematerialisation objectives set out in point 8.5.3.1. of the CAP 2023-2027 National Strategic Plan‘ (Article 6).

Coldiretti holding will thus be able to crush the competition of the other confederations, as well as of the CAAs ‘of a lesser son’, making use of the firepower of IBF Servizi – once controlled by Bonifiche Ferraresi, with the participation, among others, of the public body ISMEA – purchased for the record sum of 50 million by ‘its’ Nextalia Sgr fund. (7) On whose board of directors, ça va sans dire, Vincenzo Gesmundo still sits (8,9). Without forgetting the IT services offered by Bluarancio SpA, in turn part of Germina Campus SpA where the ‘boss of bosses’ is v.chairman of the Board of Directors. (10)

4) The stakes

The multiannual financial framework for the 2021-2027 CAP is worth 386,603 billion euros, equal to 32% of the total Union budget. And Italy receives 10,5% of the total aid, which in 2021 was worth 5,713 billion euros. (11)

The CAAs of the large agricultural confederations – in addition to receiving public fees from the paying agencies and other public bodies, for the management of farm files and other delegated functions (see paragraphs 3.4, 3.6 above) – charge farms fees for services that often include a share of the sums received through them. (12) And thus:

– the stakes for private-sector remuneration of farm file management alone, assuming an average share of 3% of CAP aid, are worth over 171 million euros in Italy. To which must be added

– fees for other complementary services (see paragraph 3.5 above)

– membership fees, in defiance of the constitutional freedom of association, and all the various services to which members are de facto forced. This includes employers’ proxies, for farms that have staff, ‘agreed’ and ‘subsidised’ insurance, and the annual paperwork for ‘diesel booklets’ (13,14).

5) Lollobrigida decree, the effects

The effects of the decree under review, in brief:

– over 2.500 freelancers definitively excluded from providing agricultural assistance services

– within 14 months of publication of the decree, exclusion of the many independent CAAs that for decades have provided these services in the various rural districts

– absolute domination of Coldiretti’s CAA, the decree being ‘tailor-made’ for its 54 Impresa Verde Srl system. Followed by Confagricoltura, CIA-Agricoltori italiani, CISL, Copagri (UIL), LiberiAgricoltori

– significant reduction in competition and farmers’ freedom of choice of service providers

– increase in service prices, at the expense of operators, due to the disproportionate organisational burdens placed on CAAs.

The European Commission, defined by Ettore Prandini as an ‘enemy’, will be the only lifeline against this disastrous national measure. That is, if someone remembers its value, at least once, in guaranteeing free competition and the rights of companies and workers. In the hope of its umpteenth diktat, to the Italian government, to refrain from implementing this shameful decree.

Dario Dongo

Annex

Decree relating to the definition of the guarantee and operating requirements that authorized agricultural assistance centers (CAA) must possess to carry out their activity.  MASAF. 2.2.24

Footnotes

(1) Dario Dongo. Public administration, loyalty to the state or to Coldiretti? #Clean shovelsGIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 27.6.21

(2) Dario Dongo. AGEA and MASAF ‘Coldiretti’. The suppression of freelancers in agricultureGIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 30.9.23

(3) Gabriele Papa Pagliardini’s conflict of interests was once stigmatized by the European Commission, and yet ignored by successive Italian governments. See the previous article by Dario Dongo. AGEA – Coldiretti, the European Commission rejects the conflict of interest. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 24.3.21

(4) Dario Dongo. CAA, the State Council rejects freelancers. #Clean shovelsGIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 1.4.22

(5) Regarding the links between Coldiretti, Francesco Lollobrigida and Fratelli d’Italia, see the previous article by Dario Dongo. Coldiretti, Lollobrigida and Fratelli d’Italia, deep ties and #falseflag. #CleanSpadesGIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 10.2.24

(6) ‘To carry out their functions and activities, the CAA can make use of service companies whose share capital is entirely owned by the organizations and associations that formed the CAA or by their territorial organizations‘ (MASAF decree, article 17)

(7) Nextalia Private Equity buys IBF Servizi from BF and signs partnerships for precision agriculture services and agritech solutions. Beebiz. 27.12.22 http://tinyurl.com/4wfv833e

(8) Dario Dongo. Nextalia sgr, Coldiretti’s new tentacle in high financeGIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 2.2.21

(9) According to rumors IBF services, with the help of Gabriele Papa Pagliardini (who today seems to work for Federconsorzi alias CAI SpA, where Bonifiche Ferraresi is the dominant shareholder) would also have obtained a subcontract from the Leonardo group for some services relating to AGEA. It would be useful to verify this news, as well as the position of the former general director of AGEA with respect to the prohibitions on conflicts of interest established in the ‘revolving doors’ decree (Legislative Decree 165/2001, article 53, paragraph 16-ter)

(10) Dario Dongo. Germina Campus, the Coldiretti holding company that speculates on farmers. #Clean shovelsGIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 13.6.21

(11) Reg. (EU) No 2020/2093. See: Financing the CAP: facts and figures. European Parliament http://tinyurl.com/mu9zdzc7

(12) Other CAAs, such as those of the LiberiAgricoltori Confederation which rely on Confagricoltura, instead limit themselves to asking for sums ranging from 30 to 500 euros, something more for large companies. On the other hand, the directors of LiberiAgricoltori work for free by statute, they do not have to pay millionaire salaries and positions like in Coldiretti. Some notes on this last regard in paragraph 5 (The caste of Palazzo Rospigliosi) of the previous article by Dario Dongo. Farmers’ protest, the letter from the big boss of ColdirettiGIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 8.2.24

(13) Regarding Coldiretti policies:

– the ‘affiliated insurances’, with premiums higher than the market ones, are subject to triple intermediation which involves the broker Green Assicurazioni Srl (of Germina Campus SpA, the holding company of Coldiretti), the ‘reinsurer’ and the Agrifides agency, also of Coldiretti (see the article in note 10)

– ‘subsidized’ insurance is also the subject of speculation described in the previous article by Dario Dongo. Subsidized insurance, Coldiretti’s business behind farmersGIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 13.5.21

(14) To obtain the ‘diesel booklet’, farmers must submit the application to the Region at the beginning of each year. In view of the assignment of a quota of diesel fuel proportionate to the crop plan compiled with precise reference to the maps, the animals raised, number and license plates of tractors, and any diesel-powered food machinery. The application presented by individual farmers is examined with absolute rigor, at the risk of rejection of the application. However, if an association presents the application, the offices allow you to correct the application and resubmit it rather than rejecting it ‘de plano’. The association also warns farmers and breeders of incoming checks. So that they can possibly move the animals (e.g. sending the animals to the slaughterhouse) or carry out the disposal of sewage, or correct the registers to avoid suspensions. Information collected at a livestock farm in Emilia-Romagna

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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.

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