HomeIdea#AgricoltoriUniti, the voice of Sardinian shepherds and farmers in protest

#AgricoltoriUniti, the voice of Sardinian shepherds and farmers in protest

The protesting Sardinian shepherds and farmers offer a great example in forming a single great voice, #AgricoltoriUniti, to address a list of priorities to the new president of the Autonomous Region of Sardinia Alessandra Todde.

Urgent, shared and necessary priorities for the protection of both primary agricultural production and food sovereignty and territories. Priorities to be carried forward in Sardinia, Italy and the European Union. #CleanSpades.

#AgricoltoriUniti in Sardinia, the public assembly in Tramatza

Farmers, shepherds and breeders who over the years have participated and still participate in lively protest demonstrations (1,2) met with citizens in a general public assembly - on 9 March 2024, in Tramatza (Oristano). The analysis of the problems of the agro-pastoral sector and the solutions to address them were shared with the population who are in turn witnesses and victims of the abuses perpetrated to the detriment of the rural economy and of the landscapes raped by wind turbines.

One great voice was formed, in Sardinia, thanks to the ability of all the participants to unite on a program that ignores the membership of individual groups in various movements and associations. In the awareness that only unity can create the strength that is needed today more than ever to counter finance, the protagonist both of speculation in the agri-food chain and of the destruction of wonderful landscapes to install gigantic wind turbines. Below is a summary of the shared priorities.

1) Appointment of Agriculture Councilor, agro-pastoral reform

The agro-pastoral sector – in addition to being a symbol of the identity and culture of Sardinia – it has a fundamental role in the local economy. The Agriculture Councilor must therefore have specific expertise on the common agricultural policy (CAP) and know the key supply chains of the territories.

An effective synergy and continuous with the operators, who must always be listened to and considered before adopting any political and administrative decision, it is the only way to resolve the unresolved problems that still create serious inconveniences to the production sector, with the risk of abandonment of the countryside.

2) CAP, revision necessary

The CAP 2023-2027 - although watered down by the lobbies of Coldiretti, Copa-Cogeca and Farm Europe (3) - had envisaged providing targeted support to agricultural and peasant companies. As well as allowing Member States greater flexibility in adapting measures to local conditions, through national strategic plans.

Sardinia's agro-pastoral production system - which includes extensive wild and semi-wild farming - integrates well with the eco-sustainable agricultural practices to which the CAP has reserved a quarter of direct payments. Except then, the European Commission, proposes the renunciation of these practices to services of the agro-industrial oligarchies. (4)

The agro-pastoral activities, in addition to offering safe and quality food, preserve the economy in rural areas. With an essential role also in mitigating the risks of hydrogeological instability, thanks to the continuous maintenance of common goods.

2.1) CAP, the national strategic plan

The national strategic plan (PSN) under the Coldiretti brand was rejected, as we have seen, because it did not consider the agrobiodiversity of rural areas in Italy nor the need to distribute aid to family and peasant farms and the need to incentivize young farmers. (5) Consequently:

  • on 21 June 2022 the State-Regions Conference reached a new agreement on the distribution of the EAFRD (European Fund for Agriculture and Rural Development) assigned to Italy as part of the Rural Development Programs in the period 2023-2027
  • on 30 September 2022, Italy re-presented the PSN in Brussels, without making the substantial changes requested by the European Commission and indeed deliberately boycotting the conversion to organic, as has already been reported. (6)

2.2) Sardinia penalized

Sardinia agro-pastoral was seriously penalized by the council of ex-governor Christian Solinas, in the negotiations that led to the CAP (in force from 1 January 2023), in various respects:

  • sheep and goat breeding, exclusion of eco-scheme 1 at level 2 of the CAP. Three million animals raised with respect for animal welfare, with grazing and wild breeding, were excluded from the scope of the financing provided for in the aforementioned eco-scheme
  • unfair reduction in value of basic payment securities. The value of the securities, already far lower than the national average, was halved. In defiance of Brussels' requirements for a fair distribution of contributions in the various Regions
  • subtraction of public resources. Sardinia has been relegated from fourth to seventh place in the distribution of resources established in the Rural Development Complements (CSR). With a loss of €115 million overall, €23 million/year.

3) 'Farm to Fork' and unfair competition

'Farm to Fork' – the EU strategy that Ursula von der Leyen has repeatedly rejected, most recently by withdrawing the proposal to reduce the use of the most dangerous chemical substances in agrochemicals (7) – would have been useful in promoting the ecological transition and defining a new social pact with the citizens. For a more equitable and sustainable European agri-food system, respectful of biodiversity and public health.

Imports of agri-food products from third countries at low cost and zero duties, in conditions of social and environmental dumping, are however not compatible with this approach and put local productions out of play, which are instead burdened by numerous burdens, including bureaucratic ones, which affect production costs not remunerated by the market.

3.1) Free trade agreements

Unfair competition it is exacerbated by the free trade agreements that the European Union has already defined and continues to negotiate, with the support of various Italian governments and MEPs. 42 free trade agreements are already in place with 74 non-EU countries and over 44% of non-EU trade occurs with countries that have signed free trade agreements with Europe.

Free trade agreements of 'new generation' (e.g. CETA with Canada, JEPHTA with Japan, South Korea, the United Kingdom, etc.), moreover, they no longer have just a customs dimension. In fact, these are broad-spectrum political agreements, which include numerous aspects (e.g. technical barriers to trade, state aid, investment protection) aimed at drastically limiting the political sovereignty of member states.

3.2) EU-New Zealand, EU-Chile agreements

The impact on agriculture and the European livestock farming of the latest agreements approved by the European Union – with the support of political parties which now, under elections, declare themselves 'friends of farmers' (8) – is potentially catastrophic. A couple of examples:

  • EU-Chile. Increase in zero-duty import quotas on poultry meat (+18.000 t), pork (+9.000 t), sheep (+4.000 t), beef (+2.000 t). New quotas for fruit preparations (10.000 t) and olive oil (11.000 t). Import of apples, kiwis and honey without quantity limits or customs duties
  • EU-New Zealand, 38.000 t of sheep meat and 10.000 t of zero-rated beef. As always, without any reciprocity clause to guarantee compliance with the same requirements prescribed for European farmers and breeders. (8)

3.3) Free trade, what rules?

Financial oligarchies which dominate the factors of production and the markets of agri-food commodities, as we have seen, have affirmed the unconditional 'free trade' of agricultural and food commodities to their exclusive advantage. (9)

'Free trade' of agricultural and food commodities translates into a globalization of exploitation aimed at destroying family and peasant farms and their workers, on which more than 70% of the global food supply still depends.

Such imports must therefore be subjected to mandatory limits:

  • reciprocity clauses, to guarantee food safety, fair prices and the guarantee of workers' social and trade union rights, the protection of the environment and biodiversity
  • tariff quotas to be reviewed annually, based on the levels of European production and the actual needs of the supply chains.

3.4) Ecological transition, the necessary aid

The common agricultural policy today it represents 31% of the European budget, with around 55 billion euros/year which risk being devoured both by Ursula von der Leyen's war-mongering projects and by the possible entry of Ukraine into the EU (10,11).

The overall GDP of the European Union is moreover equal to approximately 16 thousand billion euros, where the financial giants and the energy and IT sectors - as well as the banking and insurance sectors, just to name a couple - grind out extra profits, on the backs of the populations, subjected to tax regimes incomparable to those of self-employed workers and employees.

The ecological transition envisaged in the 'Farm to Fork' strategy must therefore be supported with generous direct aid to family and peasant farms only, to encourage polyculture and production autonomy as well as reduce dependence on agrochemicals and nitrogen fertilizers.

4) #fairprice, no #undercost

Directive (EU) 2019/633 on unfair commercial practices in the agri-food supply chain has proven to be unsuitable for correcting the serious imbalance of bargaining power between suppliers - agricultural and food processing companies, in particular the smaller ones - and their large customers (large organized distribution, e-commerce platform managers and large processing industries).

It is essential correct the directive itself, introducing a series of changes that the writer has included in his electoral program in view of the upcoming European elections of 6-9 June 2024. (12) And a reform of Legislative Decree 198/21 is equally urgent which , in implementing the aforementioned directive in Italy, illicitly excluded cooperatives, producer organizations and their associations (PO, AOP) from these rules. (13)

Customers and farmers are both victims of speculation which reverberates downstream in inflation disproportionate to the costs of supplies (greedflation) and upstream in purchases of agricultural products below their production costs. Thus local farmers are destined to cease and/or sell their activities and consumers are destined to receive products of inferior quality or products arriving from the other side of the world.

5) Principle of insularity

Constitutional law 7 November 2022 n. 2 integrated article 119 of the Italian Constitution by providing that 'the Republic recognizes the peculiarities of the Islands and promotes the measures necessary to remove the disadvantages resulting from insularity'. In line with the Nice Charter on fundamental rights of the European Union (article 45) and with the Treaty for the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU, article 21.1), in the parts relating to freedoms of movement and residence.

Italy however, continues to travel at two speeds and the resources of the PNRR have accentuated the gap, to the detriment of the Central-Southern Regions and the Islands. Sardinia's island deficit – that is, the overall cost associated with its geographical location – is estimated to have an impact on each resident of €5.700/year (Istituto Bruno Leoni, 2020).

The logistics and transport, even within the island, has a decisive impact on the economic development of Sardinia. Whose seaports have a minimum distance of 125 miles (approximately seven hours of navigation). 'Territorial continuity' must therefore be guaranteed, with specific rules, in order to guarantee efficient, sustainable and economically accessible transport services.

6) Renewable energy

The energy transition has become the object of financial speculation on agricultural land and landscapes, as the writer has in turn denounced. (14) Without there being any need, since there is already an abundance of waterproofed surfaces (buildings, warehouses, car parks, highways) where solar panels can be applied without consuming soil, while wind turbines can be installed miles away from the coasts .

The goals of 'climate neutrality' defined by the European Union before moving on to the 'war economy' postulate that member states, by 2030, use energy from renewable sources at a minimum rate of 32% of the total. Italy has therefore planned to install plants capable of producing 70 GW (3,3 GW for each of the 20 Regions as well as 1,7 GW for the two provinces of Trento and Bolzano). (15)

In the absence of clear rules on the distribution of plants, Sardinia - already disfigured by around 1.200 towers with wind turbines - today finds itself facing projects for 56 GW, equal to 17 times the necessary amount. Prey to financial speculation that is hoarding private land through expropriations 'for public use'. In contrast, among other things, with the European precept according to which the energy produced should be destined for self-consumption.

7) Conclusions

The protest of Sardinian shepherds and farmers has always stood out for its effectiveness, also due to the determination and unpredictability of spontaneous mobilizations which also included road and port blockades. The various groups have been able to find a programmatic unity, unprecedented in Italy, which constitutes the basis for obtaining results.

Openness to dialogue furthermore, it should not be underestimated by institutional interlocutors, since the Sardinians never give up. And if the results do not arrive, equally unpredictable mobilizations may continue unabated. The governor-manager Alessandra Todde will also be able to fight to cancel the shameful reform of the CAA to the detriment of free competition. (16)

Dario Dongo

Footnotes

(1) Dario Dongo, Guido Cortese. There is milk and milk, the reasons for farmers in Sardinia. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 12.2.19

(2) Dario Dongo, Elena Bosani. Sardinian shepherds and unfair commercial practices, negligible Antitrust sanctions against F.lli Pinna and 5 other dairies. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 31.7.19

(3) Dario Dongo. PAC post 2020, smoky gray. We need an organic revolution. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 22.10.20

(4) Support for farmers: Council endorses targeted review of the common agricultural policy. 26.3.24 https://tinyurl.com/mryfh79u

(5) The first national strategic plan, as always ordered by Coldiretti, had been rejected in Brussels. See Dario Dongo. PAC, the European Commission rejects Italy's National Strategic Plan. #Clean shovels. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 14.4.22

(6) Dario Dongo. The Ministry of Agriculture boycotts organic products. Open letter. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 30.12.22

(7) Dario Dongo. Protesting farmers, pesticides instead of #fairprice. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 7.2.24

(8) Dario Dongo. Green light for EU agreements with Chile and Kenya. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 28.2.24

(9) Dario Dongo. The tentacles of finance on food sovereignty and our food. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 31.3.24

(10) Dario Dongo. The warlords in the European elections. Égalité. 2.4.24

(11) Dario Dongo. Unfair competition, yet another mockery of farmers in the EU. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 24.3.24

(12) Dario Dongo. Peace, Land and Dignity. Our movement in the 2024 European elections. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 14.3.24

(13) Dario Dongo. #FarmersUnited, the manifesto 2 March 2024. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 27.2.24

(14) Dario Dongo. Land robbery, 'agri-solar parks' and wind turbines. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 3.4.24

(15) Directive (EU) 2018/2001

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

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

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