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Italy: Why Small Farmers Aren't Joining the Protest "Tractor"

Italy 19.02.2024
Source: The DairyNews
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We may be accustomed to thinking of agriculture as a unified entity, but the ongoing protests on Italian streets reveal the complexity of the agricultural world, repubblica.it writes.
Italy: Why Small Farmers Aren't Joining the Protest "Tractor"
The farmers taking to the streets with tractors belong to the industrial agricultural circuit, involved in intensive productions aimed at maximizing yields—what we now refer to as "conventional agriculture." For over 50 years, national and European agricultural policies encouraged this cultivation and breeding approach, which seemed innovative and avant-garde at the time but has now revealed its limitations in terms of environmental sustainability, soil health, and the wholesomeness of the produced food. These farmers protest because the new regulations will gradually disrupt the rules of the game they are accustomed to, and they are not prepared for the changes. For years, their main sources of training and professional updates have come from courses and consultations provided by feed, fertilizer, and pesticide-producing companies with specific commercial interests, not particularly inclined towards ecological transition.

Although the funding linked to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has undoubtedly supported the sector so far, it has also inadvertently distorted the agricultural goods market, allowing bypassing the unfair prices dictated by the industry and leaving agricultural enterprises without the entrepreneurial culture that enables businesses in other sectors to adapt to changes more flexibly. The result is a reactionary protest against the Green Deal and EU agricultural policies.

Then there are those who silently observed, not entirely agreeing with the reasons behind the protest. These are the micro-enterprises in environmentally and animal-friendly agriculture, not affected by ecological transition because their approach already aligns with those principles.

To better understand the sentiments of these small but numerous enterprises scattered throughout the territory, I conducted a brief survey among members of the Association of Farmhouse Cheese Producers. The survey revealed that, despite belonging to the agricultural world, 94% of these companies do not feel represented by the ongoing protest or only partially so. In particular, about 80% disagree with the demands against the Green Deal and are in favor of reducing pesticides and supporting ecological transition. Short-chain agricultural micro-enterprises seem more interested in incentives for sustainable productions, attention to unfair competition from imports with different rules, and, above all, reducing bureaucratic burdens.

The general perception is that despite significant economic resources allocated to large producers, the agricultural sector has long been "neglected" both by policies and our culture in general. Starting from the idea that the profession of a farmer could be suitable even for those not inclined to academic study to the economic value we are willing to attribute to food. Now more than ever, we all need to reverse this trend: food production requires educated and capable individuals who can face the challenges the sector must confront.

If I were to make requests to the European Union, I would call for policies aimed at rewarding virtuous companies, a shared knowledge system, and tools useful to businesses to progress in the green transition with awareness.
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