Farmers protesting in Rome and throughout Italy, 15 February 2024

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farmer protesting

Farmers, breeders and fishermen in protest – today in Rome, at the Campidoglio and the Circus Maximus, and in the squares of many provinces of Italy – express a common drama, the inability to survive in an unregulated market that does not guarantee them a #fairprice and forces them to sell their products #belowcost.

The ‘tractors revolt’ expresses everyone’s intolerance towards iniquitous social policies carried out, in Italy and in the European Union, in the exclusive interest of the economic oligarchies and the systems that represent them – Coldiretti above all (1) – the detriment of the protagonists of a fragmented supply-chain. #Clean Spades.

1) Food sovereignty at the center

Italians farmers and breeders denounce the connivance of the large agricultural confederations with the cooperatives which have been illicitly exempted from the application of legislative decree 198/21 on unfair commercial practices. Besides with industry and large-scale distribution, as we have seen. (2)

Food sovereignty is at the centre, since without covering costs one can no longer produce and without agriculture food disappears (3,4). But ‘sovereignty’ is a word in the wind, for Coldiretti’s ‘brother-in-law minister’ who wants instead to deprive farmers even of the freedom to decide who to entrust with the handling of EU subsidies. (5)

2) Farmers and breeders at the Circus Maximus. ‘Now or never’

The revolution has just begun‘, announces Tonino Monfeli, a farmer for four generations in Viterbo. ‘We have been in the streets for more than a month, we are abandoning our land but we are going ahead to protest against this system. Multinationals and middlemen make money on our backs, enough is enough! It is the first time we are demonstrating and we want to bring everyone together, without unions or politicians. We are all farmers, and consumers are welcome. We want a guaranteed minimum price that must cover production costs and a decent income!’

Tormented by politics and by agricultural confederations‘, representatives of movements from each region also denounce the shameful mismanagement of the Coldiretti-led land reclamation consortia. ‘Coldiretti is the cancer of agriculture‘ states Danilo Calvani, who launched the initiative in early January, in no uncertain terms. And he denounces the‘miserable operation of minister Francesco Lollobrigida, who with Coldiretti has created a false movement to fool everyone’, referring to the ‘sell-outs’ of ‘agricultural redemption’. (7)

3) Everyone’s protest

Our protest is everyone’s protest, because people are fed up with injustice, people have the same problems as us‘, Danilo Calvani continues. ‘We have mobilised thousands of farmers in every part of the country. No one is giving up and we cannot give up because it is a question of our and your survival‘.

This is the beginning of the protest and ‘the struggle continues‘ against a dictatorship masquerading as democracy are the most recurrent messages. The protesting farmers ask Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni to declare the state of crisis in Italian agriculture, as has already happened in Sicily, in order to take the necessary measures immediately.

The protest is extended to the Meloni government’s decision to provide ‘aid’ and above all armaments to Ukraine, to the tune of 50 billion euro that has been taken away from healthcare, schools, pensions and other public services in Italy. Then the projects to occupy land to install wind turbines (over 1500 in Sardinia) and solar panels are also denounced.

4) Sales below cost, cooperatives and producers’ organizations

Clementines from the Sibari plain in Calabria are now paid €0,22/kg to farmers. Grapes delivered to the cooperative social cellar in Carpi (MO) are paid €0,18/kg – just over half of their production cost – one and a half years after delivery. Apples ‘to be discarded’ are not paid but are then resold ‘on offer’ at 0,70 €/kg.

The POs and POAs – producer organisations and their associations, 637 in Italy (8) – have been set up to aggregate private supply and do still receive significant European subsidies, thanks to which they pay for the chairs of the managers appointed by the confederations, Coldiretti and Confagricoltura in primis.

These organizations however, have been unlawfully excluded from the scope of the decree on unfair commercial practices, together with the cooperatives, at the express wish of the agricultural confederations, which one doubts have informed and consulted their associative bases. (2) With the result that:

– many POs, POAs and cooperatives have become the worst tormentors of farmers, who are forced to pay raw materials and other inputs within 60 days, taxes and bills within the terms of the law, and are paid (often below cost) with months and years of delay

– the same POs, POAs and cooperatives, thanks to undercosting and late payments, compete unfairly with commercial intermediaries, thus drugging the market and causing price lists to collapse.

5) The cost of poisons

Italian agriculture must also be protected from new GMOs, as well as from herbicides, pesticides and fungicides that ‘are never enough’, because pests and other threats adapt quickly to the poisons, and so more and more of them must be used, in quantities and numbers, at increasing costs.

The specialised farming model generates profits for the agrochemical industry giants – whose products are marketed by the agrarian consortia that Coldiretti has given to finance with Federconsorzi 2 alias CAI SpA (6) – but proves to be a failure for farmers.

Participants at the events therefore listen with interest to the experiences of those who have already successfully converted to organic farming and training for years. Like Mario Apicella of Altragricoltura bio and Carlo Triarico, a pioneer of biodynamics, but also Giorgio Bonacini in Modena.

The ‘Farm to Fork’ ecological transition that the big agricultural confederations boycott (9) would have provided Italy with just under 6 billion euro in direct aid to farmers, precisely to change the models by:

– diversifing production, and thus diversifing and reducing risks

– investing in quality and profitability, at a #fairprice, instead of quantity

– restoring soil health and productivity

– eliminating toxic chemicals (first and foremost for those who using them).

6) Continuous fight

The struggle continues, the protesting farmers and livestock breeders are not asking for or settling for handouts and welfarism. Almost 400 tractors today in Modena will maintain the garrison in Emilia-Romagna and new mobilisations are announced in numerous other provinces.

Agrarian Italy stops, to claim:

A) the dignity of work – that is, the #fairprice and the ban on sales below cost, to be guaranteed immediately by a law-decree reforming legislative decree No 198/21 (11)

B) freedom of association and contractual autonomy, through the annulment of the decree on the CAA monopoly (5)

C) direct support for the ecological transition in agriculture, strictly without GMOs in the absence of an appropriate risk assessment. (12)

#UnitedFarmers, #CleanSpades!

Dario Dongo

Footnotes

(1) Dario Dongo. Italy, farmers protest against Coldiretti. #CleanSpadesGIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 26.1.24

(2) See paragraph 4 of the previous article by Dario Dongo. January 31, 2024, the day of the farmers’ protest in ItalyGIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 31.1.24

(3) Dario Dongo. Food sovereignty in Italy, the ABC. Reflections and proposals to the new ministerGIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 28.10.22

(4) Dario Dongo. Food sovereignty and sustainable development in agriculture, open letter to the ministerGIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 5.12.22

(5) Dario Dongo. Italy, green light for the CAA monopoly on EU aid in agricultureGIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 12.2.24

(6) See paragraph 7 (Coldiretti, finance on the shoulders of farmers) to the previous article by Dario Dongo. Farmers in protest, the viral deception of Coldiretti & CoGIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 5.2.24

(7) See paragraph 3 (Infiltration. The farce of the ‘Agricultural Ransom’ in Italy) in the previous article by Dario Dongo. Farmers’ protest, the reaction of the strong powersGIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 13.2.24

(8) European Commission. DG Agri. Producer organizations and interprofessional organizations http://tinyurl.com/4h4bvnbh

(9) See paragraph 3.5 in the previous article by Dario Dongo. Unfair commercial practices in the agri-food chain, Legislative Decree 198/2021. The ABCGIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 26.2.22

(10) Dario Dongo. Protesting farmers, pesticides instead of #fairpriceGIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 7.2.24

(11) The methods for an effective reform of Legislative Decree 198/21 are indicated in paragraphs 4 and 5 of the article referred to in the previous note 2

(12) Dario Dongo, Alessandra Mei. New GMOs, NGTs. Green light from Strasbourg to deregulationGIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 9.2.24

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