The Ministry of Agriculture, Food Sovereignty and Forestry (MASAF) has defined 'the requirements and conditions for the establishment and recognition of organic districts', or bio-districts, by decree 28.12.2022 n. 663273. (1)
The current document 'provisions for the protection, development and competitiveness of agricultural, agri-food and aquaculture production using organic methods' referred to in law 23/2022, article 13. (2) ABC to follow.
1) Biodistretti, or biological districts. Introduction
'Biological districts' are made up of 'food districts' (3) as well as 'local production systems, including
interprovincial or interregional character, with a marked agricultural vocation, in which the following are significant:
a) the cultivation, breeding, transformation and food preparation, within the territory identified by the biodistrict, of Organic products in accordance with current legislation on the subject;
b) the organic primary production which insists on a supra-municipal territory, i.e. comprising areas belonging to several municipalities' (law 23/2022, art. 13.1).
1.1) Integration on the territory, limitations on the use of pesticides and herbicides
'Biological districts are also characterized by:
- 'integration with other economic activities present in the area of the district itself and for the presence of landscaped areas
relevant, including national and regional protected natural areas (…) and areas included in the «Natura 2000» network',
- 'the limited use of plant protection products inside them. In particular, public bodies can prohibit the use of herbicides for cleaning streets and public areas and establish compensatory facilities for businesses'.
'Farmers conventional practices adopt the necessary practices to prevent accidental pollution of organic crops'(law 23/2022, art. 13.2).
'The biological district can participate Local societies, individuals or associations, which adopt policies for the protection of organic products, for environmental protection, for the conservation of agricultural soil and for the defense of biodiversity, as well as research bodies that carry out scientific activities on the subject' (law 23/2022, art. 13.3),
In turn 'biological districts promote the establishment of operator groups, on the basis of the provisions of the reg. EU 2018/848, (4) in order to create forms of group certification' (law 23/2022, art. 13.11).
1.5) Objectives. Ecosystems
The goals for the establishment of biological districts are:
'a) promote the conversion to organic production and encourage the sustainable use of natural and local resources in agricultural production processes, as well as guarantee the ecosystem protection, supporting design and innovation at the service of acircular economy,
b) stimulate and favor the territorial approach to the conversion and maintenance of organic production (…) in order to safeguard the environment, health and local diversity,
c) simplify, for organic producers operating in the district, the application of the standards organic certification and the environmental and territorial certification standards required by current legislation' (law 23/2022, art. 13.5).
1.6) Objectives. Social and productive cohesion
Sustainability biodistricts must also include social and economic objectives:
d) favor the development, valorisation and promotion of
preparation processes, of transformation and marketing of organic products,
e) promote and support the multifunctional activities linked to organic production, such as the administration of organic food in public and collective catering, the direct sale of organic products, agritourism and fishing tourism, rural tourism, social agriculture, (5),
g) promote and implement participatory research projects with companies and the dissemination of innovative practices' (law 23/2022, art. 13.5).
2) Biodistricts, requirements and conditions for establishment and recognition
The associations some organic producers, with the support of the academy, have also worked for a long time to define the guidelines to be established in the biodistricts (6,7). Which in fact, as we have seen, have already recorded important developments starting from the Regions of Central Italy. (8)
The organization of biodistricts or biological districts, according to the provisions of the ministerial decree, is divided as follows:
- promoting committee. 'A grouping of subjects, single and associated companies, producers' organizations, public and private subjects, who intend to promote the establishment of a district
organic for the dissemination of the organic method of cultivation,
breeding and aquaculture, for its dissemination as well as for the
support and enhancement of sustainable management also of
activities other than agriculture. Has the role of strategic orientation and coordination of activities,
- managing entity. È 'identified by the promoting committee for the representation of the organic district, until obtaining legal recognition from the Region',
- board of directors. It is 'constituted by the organic district after regional recognition to adopt the statute and organizational regulation of the entity', and is in charge of the 'representation of the administrative, economic and commercial bodies of the district' (DM 28.12.22, art. 2.1, letters g,i,j).
2.2) Biodistrict Protocol and Plan
Preliminarily, the subjects who make up the promoting committee are called to stipulate 'with private writing' and subscribe to a Protocol where the strategic objectives of the biological district are defined. Which must include:
- share of increase of the utilized agricultural area (UAA) with the organic method,
- promotion of synergies between operators, to carry out group certifications,
- impact prediction on the conditions of environmental sustainability, quality of life and work, economic vitality of the organic district.
District plan organic it is 'a general planning document of the activities of the biological district which contains the territorial analysis, the needs, the objectives, the activities, the
expected results, the roles and interactions between the participants, the indicators for monitoring the results' and financial instruments (DM 28.12.22, art. 2.1, letters k,m).
2.3) Small Local Productions, km0 and short supply chain
They can participate to biodistricts not only organic operators (also in conversion, i.e. with a mixed organic and 'conventional' regime) but also agricultural entrepreneurs dedicated to:
- 'small agri-food productions of local origin'besides those
- 'at kilometer zero and coming from short supply chain' (DM 28.12.22, article 4. See notes 9,10,11).
An opening towards the model of peasant agriculture – for 15 years awaiting a specific law (12) – which will be able to bring producers who are not certified organic but 'close' in terms of rural values closer to the individual or group certification system.
The requirements for the establishment and recognition of bio-districts are therefore:
- name and legal form,
- territorial delimitation of the biodistrict,
- list of active participants on the bio front and surroundings (see supra, para. 2.3),
- administrative organization, with indication of the members of the board of directors and the legal representative,
- purposes and activities to be carried out to achieve the strategic objectives indicated in the Protocol (see supra, par. 2.1), in a logic of 'quality system'.
3) Provisional conclusions
Italy – with 2.186.570 hectares dedicated to organic farming – is today in a good position with respect to the strategy objective Farm to Fork, reach 2030% of the areas cultivated with organic farming by 25. Indeed:
- the Italian average is 17,4% of the UAA dedicated to organic products (compared to an EU average of 9%).
- two Regions (Tuscany, Calabria) are at the forefront, with 34%,
- other Regions (Lazio, Molise, Marche, Puglia) are close to the EU target, with values between 20 and 26%.
The biodistricts today they offer a great opportunity for sustainable development where the rural community can become the protagonist of a local economy based on respect for ecosystems and landscapes, biodiversity and health. So as to also attract tourism – increasingly in search of authentic 'green', uncontaminated by pesticides and herbicides – and investments.
Dario Dongo, Donato Ferrucci, Nicolò Passeri
(1) MASAF. Decree 28.12.22. Determination of the requirements and conditions for the establishment of biological districts https://www.gazzettaufficiale.it/atto/serie_generale/caricaDettaglioAtto/originario?atto.dataPubblicazioneGazzetta=2023-02-24&atto.codiceRedazionale=23A01083&elenco30giorni=false
(2) Law 23/2022. Provisions for the protection, development and competitiveness of agricultural, agri-food and aquaculture production using organic methods. https://www.normattiva.it/uri-res/N2Ls?urn:nir:stato:legge:2022;23 See article 13
(3) Bio-districts, or biological districts, have been included among the 'food districts' by Legislative Decree 228/2001. Orientation and modernization of the agricultural sector https://www.normattiva.it/uri-res/N2Ls?urn:nir:stato:decreto.legislativo:2001-05-18;228~art13
(4) Donato Ferrucci, Dario Dongo. Production and labeling of organic products, reg. EU 2018/848. The ABC. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 2.2.22
(5) Dario Dongo, Giulia Caddeo. Social farming, opportunities awaiting support. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 1.4.21
(6) Barbara Pancino (2008). Definition and identification of biological districts: some introductory reflections. AgriregionsEurope. https://agriregionieuropa.univpm.it/it/content/article/31/12/definizione-e-individuazione-dei-distretti-biologici-alcune-riflessioni
(7) Silvio Franco, Barbara Pancino. The biological district. Franco Angeli editions, Milan, 2015. ISBN 8891725617
(8) Martha Strinati. New boost to organic in Lazio, 5 new biodistricts and 400 thousand euros of contributions. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 11.10.21
(9) Dario Dongo. Small Local Productions, PPL. Law 30/2022 and the Brancaleone Army. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 25.4.22
(10) Dario Dongo. Short supply chain, concepts and values. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 27.9.19
(11) Law 17 May 2022, n. 61.
Rules for the enhancement and promotion of zero kilometer agricultural and food products and those from a short supply chain https://www.normattiva.it/atto/caricaDettaglioAtto?atto.dataPubblicazioneGazzetta=2022-06-11&atto.codiceRedazionale=22G00070&atto.articolo.numero=0&atto.articolo.sottoArticolo=1&atto.articolo.sottoArticolo1=10&qId=3fdd3616-2e4b-4fad-ba54-5c214f550866&tabID=0.6664524928701978&title=lbl.dettaglioAtto
(12) Dario Dongo, Giulia Caddeo. Popular campaign for peasant agriculture, pending the law. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 6.9.19
(13) Dario Dongo, Marina De Nobili. Analysis Farm to Fork, the strategy presented in Brussels on 20.5.20. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 24.5.20