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Agriculture, pillar of the European Union. Italian parties’ proposals ahead of elections

“Agricultural chapters” in programs of “Fdi”, “Fi”, “Pd”, “Lega”, “Stati Uniti d’Europa”, “Azione”, “Verdi e Sinistra” toward the vote
Agriculture in the parties’ programs for the European Elections (ph: FB EU Parliament)

Agriculture is a pillar of the European Union, as well as one of the most important budget items, given that the current CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) for the 2023-2027 cycle absorbs a budget of 387 billion euros. It is almost physiological, then, that the agricultural chapter is present in the electoral programs of the main Italian parties, ahead of the June 6-9 elections. And so, we went to see what the main Italian parties in contention are proposing, between those who are more shifted to environmental sustainability with more radically ecological positions, and those, on the other hand, who are aiming at a compromise that looks not only at environmental aspects but also at economic and social ones.
Brief and concise is the agriculture chapter of the “With Giorgia, Italy Changes Europe” program of Fratelli d’Italia, a party that, in the European Union, belongs to the “European Conservatives and Reformists Group” (Ecr Group), and which calls agriculture “a pillar for ensuring European food sovereignty”, siding “with farmers, custodians of the environment and food sovereignty”, and against a Green Deal that “has targeted the agricultural sector”, with farmers seen as a “problem”, when in fact they are a valuable resource in addressing the climate crisis”.
The key points of Fratelli d’Italia’s agricultural proposal, therefore, are: revising the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) by removing regulations that reduce arable land and farmers’ income, raising the limit set for state aid and introducing a moratorium on debts; revising the “Restoring Nature” legislation so as not to penalize agriculture and livestock farming; continuing the battle against the production and marketing of meat and synthetic foods; and opposing the mandatory adoption of nutritional labeling systems for food products, such as Nutriscore, which penalize Italian excellence and the Mediterranean diet; defending and supporting the wine sector, denouncing any initiative that points to the mere consumption of products from the supply chain as harmful to health; improving the discipline on animal welfare; and implementing the principle of reciprocity: opening the EU market to productions from non-European countries only if they meet the social and environmental standards required of our products.
More articulate, however, at least in its illustration, is the chapter “To Promote Sustainable Agriculture” of the Electoral Manifesto “The Europe We Want” of the Democratic Party, led by Elly Schlein who, in Europe, is part of the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) group. For the PD, it must start with “a greener Common Agricultural Policy, renewed in content and objectives, capable of promoting more sustainable agricultural practices”, but there “must be no opposition between environment and food, farmers and planet”. Among the proposals, there are the encouragement of “complementary income support and the mutual fund for income stabilization”, also to “reverse the generation gap in the agricultural sector, which in Italy is below the EU average”, but it must also address the “issue of the fair price of agricultural products, and develop mechanisms with which to attribute the economic value by concretely meeting the malaise of many women farmers, squeezed between large-scale distribution and the price increases of resources”. And then again, it goes from the valorization of local and regional products, to the need for more resources, research and targeted policies to accompany them in “innovating processes and reducing negative impacts on the Planet. Agriculture can and must become a key player in the transition, which is indispensable but must also be made affordable”. For the PD, “a systemic reform of the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) needs economic instruments dedicated to enhancing the adoption of virtuous behavior”. That also passes through the “simplification of bureaucratic practices, particularly for small businesses that risk being cut off from Pac funding. And it is important to continue in the direction indicated by the Farm to Fork strategy”. Chapter Green Transition: for the PD we need a special fund for those who innovate on a technological-scientific level, because the priority is to accompany the transition from intensive practices to sustainable agricultural practices. This means not only promoting organic farming, but also drastically reducing the use of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers that threaten our health and the environment and animal welfare”.
Decidedly more concise is Lega’s program, called “More Italy, Less Europe”, which has as its key concept “Overcoming the Green Deal, the return of common sense”, and which sees agriculture “becoming a factor of development again”. For Matteo Salvini’s party, which is part of the “Identity and Democracy” group in the European Union, “today, Europe considers agricultural policy support as compensation for the costs of its “environmental” reconversion, rather than as income support; it is necessary to put the CAP back on a track aimed at protecting the productive capacity of farms, overcoming the cumbersome and bureaucratic system of eco-schemes and returning to allocating those resources to basic support. The sustainability of farms lies above all in their ability to be efficient in the production cycle and in the management of natural resources; to do this we need to Invest In innovation, mechanization and precision agriculture, while also changing the environmental directives that today hinder the use of organic by-products in the field. We are determined to cancel the unrealistic targets that have been assigned to the first sector by the Green Deal regulations; they would go to the detriment of farms that have already complied with the conditionality rules in agricultural policy and sector regulations. It is important to continue to defend the possibility of using field defense tools to combat plant diseases, as well as the need for an updated European framework on wildlife consistencies, to usher in a season of more effective management measures on the ground”.
“With Us at the Center of Europe” is, on the other hand, the title of the program of “Forza Italia - Noi Moderati”, which is part of the European People’s Party (EPP) family. And which focuses on "Supporting agriculture and fishing”, two strategic sectors for Europe. “Food security is not a luxury, but a basic necessity. We oppose excessive requirements and additional burdens on our farmers. Environmental protection”, reads the program of the party, led by Antonio Tajani, “must be achieved with the cooperation of those who work our land. Key points include “Strengthening measures against drought”, through a “European assessment framework to effectively prevent natural disasters and ensure that regions, cities and towns can defend agriculture and food production, with a European plan for water use, reuse and storage”. Then, of course, the reform of the CAP, which must provide for a “fair distribution of funds between and within member states. Adequate and additional funding is needed to facilitate the environmental efforts of our farmers, incentivize them to operate in a more sustainable way, and help them counter the effects of climate change by enhancing the value of the specialties of our agriculture”. Again, a “Reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is needed to ensure quality supplies and reduce dependence on imports, supporting the sector in its sustainable transition. We support the creation of an autonomous European portfolio on fisheries”. Finally, a look to the future, through the “Promotion of modern techniques, precision agriculture, integrated pest management, closing the nutrient cycle and use of robotics”, according to Forza Italia, which also wants to “accelerate the recognition of new agricultural biotechnologies (Tea)”.
The Movimento 5 Stelle, on the other hand, is banking on a program titled “Italy that matters, protagonists in Europe”, with the party led by Giuseppe Conte, and still looking for a precise location among the groups in the European Union parliament. According to which “the CAP of the future is allied with our farmers”. A more radically environmentalist program, compared to the others, and opposed to agreements such as Ceta, with Canada, which has already been approved and which, according to M5S, “has favored the wild import of cheap Canadian wheat”, and also to the EU-Mercosur one, “which would penalize our fruit and vegetable sector. To farmers we must extend our hand, together with them we must build a trade that is fair and close to their interests. Only in this way will we be able to safeguard our excellence and ensure a future for our agriculture”. According to the Movement, “the future Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) for post-2027 must include some qualifying elements in discontinuity with the past. In particular, we need a simplification of access procedures”. Fundamental, for M5S, to focus on certain practices “with subsidies and/or reduction of the tax burden are: direct sales and short supply chain, perennial cultivation and species intercropping, use of native and endangered species, sparing use of water resources such as those who make use of rainwater harvesting, flower bands for pollinating insects, small forests, natural hedges and swamps mixed with cultivated land to protect riparian strips, “cover crops” and fallow, composting, restoration of degraded areas, measures that preserve animal welfare, and local and extensive production. We strongly support the proposal to reduce the use of chemical pesticides by at least 50% by 2030: this will only increase the quality of European agricultural products and facilitate organic production”. Still, among the key points are “No to Nutriscore, yes to labeling to protect our Made in”, action to “counter unfair trade practices”, “protection of product prices at origin”, but also “innovation for more efficient agriculture”. “Let’s invest more in research and development on technologies for ecological transition and in projects that reduce consumption of natural resources and develop circular agriculture, for example, the valorization of waste biomass, sustainable planning of growing spaces such as bioclimatic and hydroponic greenhouses, exploit water-energy-food synergies (e.g.. agrovoltaics), tracking and shortening tools of the supply chain (with new technologies and “ethical” AI), especially by fostering youth entrepreneurship in the agricultural sector”.
If these are the proposals of the parties to date largest, “Stati Uniti d’Europa”, a coalition that brings together, among others, Matteo Renzi’s Italia Viva, Emma Bonino’s +Europa and the Italian Socialist Party, in the European group “Renew Europe”, in its program, does not devote a specific chapter to agriculture, it deals in the framework of “the Europe of environmental and economic sustainability”, where “environmental protection and the fight against climate change must be one of the objectives of the Union. To do so, we need to be guided by a principle of reasonableness and gradualness while protecting industry and jobs”. “Around food, agriculture, and fisheries are played out the main challenges of our time. Europe needs to produce more, and more efficiently, combining environmental sensitivity with economic and social sensitivity. Our list”, the program states, “takes as an integral part of its program on economic issues the strategic lines offered by President Mario Draghi in the aforementioned document. The economic program that the United States of Europe List wants to implement is simply the program that President Draghi has proposed to the country and to Europe”.
More detailed, on the other hand, is the Azione program, led by Carlo Calenda, also in the European group “Renew Europe”, articulated in five key points: “promoting a European plan for adaptation to climate change, protecting farmers' incomes, rediscussing environmental targets in the agricultural sector set by the European Union, encouraging generational change in agriculture, ensuring transparency in consumer information to encourage proper nutrition, and combating obesity”. Starting with a broad assumption: “we think the whole green deal framework should be reformed”, he writes in his program Azione.
Finally, it is called “The Courage to Dare”, the program of the “Verdi e Sinistra” alliance, which looks at “The Europe of Organic Farming and Healthy Food without Pesticides”, starting with aspects such as “Rethinking the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) on the basis of the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies, strengthening the ecological, social and animal welfare conditions that member countries must implement in national programs; Redistribute CAP funds more effectively to small producers, moving from a system of per hectare aid to a system of limited aid per activity that includes social and environmental criteria to protect workers in the sector; re-evaluate the Sur Regulation on the sustainable use of plant protection products, the constraint of not cultivating 4% of arable land, and the environmental measures of the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)”, to, among other things, “move from a model of agricultural production for export to one of food sovereignty; prevent unfair competition from products that do not meet European standards”, and more. An extreme summary, ours, of the agricultural chapters that the Italian parties will take to the EU, where different political, agricultural, food but also health and industrial models clash, between the Mediterranean, Northern and Eastern Europe, but where the Parliament that will come out of the ballot box, together with the Commission and the Council, decide the fate of all 27 (to date) EU member states, of which Italy is one of the founding countries.

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