Coldiretti, AIA and the golden calf. #Clean spades urgently needed

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Coldiretti, AIA and the golden calf. Namely, the looting of the treasury of Italian farmers. Another chapter in the malfeasance plaguing agriculture in Italy, with the complicity of politics that has always been subservient to Palazzo Rospigliosi. And the indifference of the supervisory authorities, public and private, responsible for the controls so far blatantly omitted (1,2,3,4).

Operation #CleanSpades, by the investigating judiciary, is an immediate necessity for the system-country. Also in light of the following.

Italian animal husbandry, genetic improvement and biodiversity

Italian animal husbandry roots its value on tradition and biodiversity that are renewed, in the territories, through genetic improvement. Namely, the selection of breeds to be bred to produce the various Made in Italy excellences. Cows, pigs, sheep, goats, and rabbits are selected precisely to ensure that their distinctive identities are maintained over generations (e.g., Piedmontese and Friesian cattle).

Genetic improvement takes the form of detecting productive, environmental and animal welfare (health, longevity) responses. To choose, through statistical processing, the most suitable animals for breeding. With the essential goal, among others, of ensuring genetic variability and biodiversity within each breed. Without ever neglecting the peculiarities and traditions of the territories by precise identification of the animals’ family trees.

The selection system in Italy

Italy has always recognized the public value of the selective system because the preservation of the identity of animal populations underlying its strategic supply chains depends on it. And the state has delegated these activities since the 1960s to the breeders’ associations. Which have organized themselves:

– on the territories, through the Provincial Livestock Breeders Associations (APAs) that collect field data on farms, under the coordination of the Italian Livestock Breeders Association (AIA),

– centrally, through the National Breeders’ Associations (NFAs), which collect and process the above data. One association for each breed (in cattle e.g., Brown, Friesian, Marche, Maremmana, Chianina, Romagnola, Podolica, Buffalo, etc.). ANAs calculate genetic indices used used by breeders to choose, select precisely, which animals to favor for the next generation.

Public resources and private interests

Breeders’ associations-thanks to organization, expertise and public support-have achieved excellent results over the decades, including in terms of genetic improvement. But since 2010, public funds have dropped dramatically. The system therefore turned to the EU and obtained generous funding, for the period 2017-2023, through the National Rural Development Plans (NDPs). Orienting the selection criteria accordingly toward European policy priorities. Animal welfare, environmental impact, and biodiversity.

The availability of significant financial resources has not escaped the attention of one power group, the Coldiretti magic circle. Which – under the pretext of ‘efficiency’ (later betrayed by the facts, as will be seen) and the need to ‘restructure’ the system (for its own exclusive benefit) – has effectively dismantled technical activities, absorbed the economic resources of farmers and diverted funding to its own business committees. Public resources and private interests, as noted in several other areas crucial to Italian agriculture (1,2,3,4).

Coldiretti and the golden calf. Prologue

The genetic improvement system had been managed, for four decades, with appreciable balance between the needs of breeders and their union representatives. The three agricultural confederations (Coldiretti, Confagricoltura, and CIA), in particular, had been able to manage the livestock system with respect for its players and plurality of ideas. At the dawn of the third millennium, however, the situation changed as Coldiretti took over from the other confederations.

Technical activities have lost the centrality that still justifies, at least in theory, the attraction of public grants. Farmers’ resources were absorbed into the whirlpools of Palazzo Rospigliosi, the historic headquarters of Federconsorzi and Coldiretti. And the farmers themselves have been squeezed out of decisions about the fate of their system. By means of operations that few dissenters have been able to resist, amid marginalizations and prebends. The sack was performed in four stages, described below.

Step 1. The grip of the AIA

The taking of the AIA-the Italian Farmers’ Association, in which the APAs (Provincial Breeders’ Associations) and ANAs (National Breeders’ Associations)-started in the early 2000s. Coldiretti has managed, in two decades, to colonize the system and run it under an autocratic regime. After provoking the exit of Confagriculture and CIA over deep disagreements on management methods. And so:

– Coldiretti picks successive general managers,

– the Coldiretti Service System Consortium assumes de facto control of the AIA, dictating the line and timing of execution. (5) The only breeders involved in the decisions, ça va sans dir, are those aligned with the stable – indeed, stable orders – of Palazzo Rospigliosi.

Stripped of all technical activity, AIA becomes an organizational and financial hub. After the sale of the property of its historic headquarters, AIA moved to an onerous lease in Palazzo Rospigliosi. An independent body under the control of farmers is thus relegated to an office of the dominant agricultural union, with more than twice as many members (>1.6 million) as there are farms in Italy (about 750,000).

Step 2. Havoc of APAs, grip on ARAs

From 2005 to 2015, there is the abolition of APAs (Provincial Breeders Associations), the acquisition of their treasures — real estate and furniture — and the transfer of their respective roles to ARAs (Regional Breeders Associations). In front of and behind the scenes, Coldiretti colonizes the ARAs, placing presidents and officials it trusts there.

Technical activity loses centrality in the redesign of the system. In 2015 AIA introduced the ‘ killerstatute,’ with almost unlimited life-and-death powers over APA and ARA. The discussion flares up but the union quells it by reassuring the ANAs that ‘everything will be fine,’ the hand will not be forced on them.

Resistance of ANAs

The ANAs-the National Breeders Associations dedicated to individual breeds, the ultimate terminal of selection-try to react to the upheaval of the system. But they are marginalized and silenced, even with the threat of Coldirettian ARA presidents’ votes in their assemblies.

The public administrations that are supposed to supervise-regions and MiPAAF-often fail to grasp what is happening, or at any rate approve the current maneuvers behind the false dazzle of greater efficiency of the new system. Regardless of the corporate and real estate operations on the treasures of the richest APAs (e.g., Lombardy).

Step 3. The looting of related entities

The Genetics Laboratory owned by the ANA and AIA is in turn absorbed by AIA (following heavy pressure from AIA on the ANAs, who were forced to divest their shares) and subsequently sold to a corporation, Agrotis SpA, owned by AIA. A new private safe into which the proceeds of APA dismemberment activities are poured. Agrotis’ share capital increased from 20 thousand to over 8 million in 2 years. The members of its Board of Directors and Board of Auditors, of course, are appointed by the usual power group (Coldiretti, AIA, Service System Consortium).

The bovine seed production system is in turn ‘colonized’:

Semenzoo, the seed export consortium, is closed in 2015. Not for economic reasons, as the business results are appreciable. Rather, to exclude an Italian center not subservient to union logic (Intermizoo, owned by Veneto Region),

Semenitaly, owned by APA of Modena, is purchased by CIZ (owned by AIA), which with the Zorlesco center (owned by Cariplo Foundation) creates Inseme SpA. After a few years, Inseme was recapitalized first by Inguran (owned by Juan Moreno, Colombia), the patent holder for seed sexing on a worldwide basis, then by
CAI (Consorzi Agrari d’Italia) S.p.A, aka Federconsorzi 2. (1)

Step 4. Attack on ANAs

The European regulation on animal reproduction, reg. EU 2016/1012, defines the rights and responsibilities of breeders, breeding bodies and hybridizing bodies. (6) And it highlights both the central role of Breed Associations in the genetic improvement process and the need to open this sector to competition.
Legislative Decree. 52/2018, in implementing the European regulation, clearly separates the field data collection system (under the Regional Breeders Associations ARA) from the genetic improvement system (under the National Breed Associations, ANA). (7)

The dome finds itself forced to untie the slipknot on the ANAs, which are participated in (and in fact controlled by) the ARAs, both of which are partners in AIA. Thus in May 2018, FEDANA, the Federation of National Associations, also known as AIA 2, was created. And the ANAs are being incorporated into it, with the imposition of a statute and regulation that deprives them of the autonomy and independence instead prescribed by the European regulation. But the plan does not work.

Italian farmers are rebelling. We will soon see how, and with what results.

#Clean spades are urgently needed!

Dario Dongo

Notes

(1) Dario Dongo. Consorzi Agrari d’Italia SpA, Federconsorzi 2? The Poison Dossier. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 1.1.21, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/mercati/consorzi-agrari-d-italia-spa-federconsorzi-2-il-dossier-dei-veleni
(2) Dario Dongo. Consorzi Agrari d’Italia, Bonifiche Ferraresi and Filiera Agricola Italiana SpA, the vase is full. GIFT(Great Italian Food Trade). 23.1.21, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/idee/consorzi-agrari-d-italia-bonifiche-ferraresi-e-filiera-agricola-italiana-spa-il-vaso-è-colmo
(3) Dario Dongo. Conflict of interest AGEA – Pagliardini – Coldiretti, questions to the European Parliament. GIFT(Great Italian Food Trade). 30.1.21, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/conflitto-dinteressi-agea-pagliardini-coldiretti-interrogazioni-al-parlamento-europeo
(4) Dario Dongo. Coldiretti and Unaprol. The uncertain fate of public funds intended for Italian olive growers. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 6.2.21, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/idee/coldiretti-e-unaprol-il-destino-incerto-di-fondi-pubblici-destinati-agli-olivicoltori-italiani
(5) Enrico Leccisi is a true champion of conflicts of interest. He was most recently cited as a member of the Boards of Directors of Oleum Italia S.r.l., on which there are various indications of crime. (4) A founding partner of AgriRevi S.p.A., (3) he is managing director of Simec (Società Italiana Consulenza e Mediazione Creditizia) S.p.A. and Agricorporatefinance S.r.l., but also mayor of UECOOP, the big safe that goes far beyond the agricultural sector. Its president Gherardo Colombo-despite his celebrated past in the #ManiPulite pool at the Milan Public Prosecutor’s Office-does not seem to have paid attention to conflicts of interest nor to his deputies including Paolo Bedoni, who is under investigation in Verona for wrongdoing at Cattolica Assicurazioni (see https://www.startmag.it/economia/caso-h-farm-pe r-cattolica/). Enrico Leccisi is then an attorney for the Società Consortile Consorzi Agrari (SCCA) joint-stock company, a shareholder of Filiera Agricola Italiana SpA. In the breeding system he is:
– board member of Inseme S.p.A., and at the same time.
– sole mayor of its shareholder AIA,
– sole auditor of Agrotis S.r.l,
– president of the union council of the Breeders’ Association of Campania and Molise, but also administrative commissioner of Coldiretti Molise (see https://molise.coldire tti.it/cariche-istituzionali/)
(6) Regulation (EU) 2016/1012 on zootechnical and genealogical conditions applying to breeding, trade and entry into the Union of pure-bred breeding animals, hybrid breeding pigs and their germinal material. Consolidated text as of 6/29/16 at https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/IT/TXT/?qid=1612803363378&uri=CELEX%3A32016R1012
(7) Legislative Decree. 11.5.18, n. 52. Regulation of animal reproduction in implementation of Article 15 of Law July 28, 2016, no. 154. (18G00076) (OJ General Series No. 120, 25-05-2018)

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