Italian Farmers are never happy
Italian farmers are unhappy with many aspects of the EU Commission's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) proposals. These fears were expressed at a special CAP conference took place as part of Fieragricola, an international farm business show held in Verona, Italy recently. Bryan Hynes reports
The greening measure outlined in the CAP proposals was the biggest issue for Italian farmers at the conference. This was portrayed as a major threat to the country's productivity.
Italy's Minister for Agriculture, Mario Catania criticised the proposed greening measures. ''The CAP proposals are not fulfilling our expectations." he said. "It is a CAP where quality is not mentioned. The commission's greening proposals have no real environmental benefits. We are going to fight it in Brussels,'' he said.
Chairman of the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee at the EU Parliament, Paolo de Castro, warned that the greening payment would not sufficiently compensate farmers for the likely loss of production.
The 30% payment based on crop rotations and 7% set-aside on all land was seen as excessive.
''We have concerns that a large amount of farms will not be willing to do the greening measure. Even at 30% of the total CAP payment, it might cost farmers too much. If not used, the money goes back to Brussels. I wouldn't like greening to be a loophole for Brussels to save money,'' he said.
He added that when the proposals were first announced, Germany was in favour of greening. This was until they estimated that the proposal would take 500,000 hectares out of production.
While the prospect of 2014 being a reference year is one of Ireland's major concerns in the CAP proposals, it wasn't raised once during the two and a half hour Italian conference. This illustrates, once more, that this issue is almost exclusively an Irish problem.
Directing supports to active farmers was another major talking point. An Italian farm organisation leader said that today we are living in a country that is completely different to when the CAP stared 50 years ago.
''Financial resources should not be made to landowners, but to active farmers. We have to focus resources towards people that make their living off the land,'' he said.
Much of the debate in Italy focused on the point that some of the greening measures contradict global food security concerns. The measure that states that 7% of agricultural land must be set-aside was a particularly sore issue among Italian speakers.
The consensus was that environmental measures must not inhibit the country's agricultural production.
Minister Mario Catania said ''There are impositions that we have to bear and it will affect our costs of production. The CAP is meant to increase food production and to aid food security. It is important that the EU is as self-sufficient as possible for food production.''
Curbing production is extremely sensitive in Italy because, unlike Ireland, the country does not produce enough food to feed its 60 million people. This brings added pressure for the country's farmers and makes food security a real issue. Mario Catania said they produce enough for just three out of four people.
A warning of the potential threat was echoed by Paolo de Castro, of the EU Parliament. He said: ''Agriculture is not something for the Minister for Agriculture to deal with alone. The growing problem with food security is making it more important.''
Another speaker added that ''we have a new problem, the revival of food scarcity. The demand for food is growing faster than supply.''
Jose Manuel Silva Rodriguez of the EU Commission pointed out that 'there are new tensions emerging between land-use for wood, bio-fuel, tillage production etc.'
Dependence on CAP
Italy's dependence on CAP payments and the role it plays within the country was highlighted on more than one occasion. The introduction of CAP was cited as ''one of the EU's most important creations,'' by Jose Manuel Silva Rodriguez.
Interestingly, many speakers commented that halting sugar beet production was a big mistake for the country.
Paolo de Castro said that with the current high prices, the 85 sugar factories that closed should have remained open. ''We have to learn from past mistakes and not let them happen again,'' he said.
The Italian minister for agricultural policies admitted that mistakes had been made. He said that the Italian government wrongly assumed that global sugar prices would settle at a low base. ''We believed that sugar production was no longer needed within the EU. That is not the case, and we got it wrong. Italy lost thousands of jobs when our six sugar plants were closed. It would work well now and help crop rotation,'' he said.
Jose Manuel Rodriguez defended the CAP proposals. ''The fact that we have to produce more does not mean that we cannot produce better. The Commission is committing itself to CAP and we do not want to go against farmers interests''.
He added that producers from various regions should be supported in accordance to the area's land type. ''For this reason we have introduced regionalisation measures,'' he said.
Jose Manuel Rodriguez also took the opportunity to explain that the budget for agricultural research has been increased from €1.7 billion to €4.5 billion, which is 1% of the overall CAP budget. ''Part of this should focus on marketing and processing. We want to see a return from investment made in innovation,'' he said.
Source: newsroom - farmingnewsdaily.co.uk