Why Italian Farmers Have Had Enough of the EU

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Why Italian Farmers Have Had Enough of the EU
Why Italian Farmers Have Had Enough of the EU

Farmers’ protests are spreading across Europe like a prairie fire. They started in Germany in December as farmers protested cuts in diesel fuel subsidies. However, they soon developed into a full-blown dissent against the European Union’s agricultural policies, revealing a rage that had been simmering for years. Farmers have had enough!

Farmers are protesting rising costs, cheap imports, bloated bureaucracy, and low profits. Above all, they oppose the EU’s green agenda that is suffocating rural life.

The protest quickly extended to Italy, from Venice and Lombardy in the north to Puglia and Sicily in the south, as farmers staged daily demonstrations at crossroads and roundabouts, calling attention to their plight. Several motorways have been clogged with tractors and cows. The extent of these demonstrations and their variety indicate no central planning: the entire rural class is exploding.

However, Italy’s situation differs radically from the rest of Europe. For starters, Italy’s farmers are not protesting against their government. “There is a difference between the situation in Italy and that of other European countries,” notes Agriculture Minister Francesco Lollobrigida. “The Meloni government is on the side of the farmers without any doubt. Here, there is no government to convince. We have maintained all the subsidies that favor the farmers and do not intend to change strategy.”

“We are not against the government,” concurs Filippo Goglio, a spokesman for the protesting farmers. “We are for Italy. That is why we chose the Italian flag with the icon of a tractor as a symbol for our battle.” Indeed, the Italian flag is ubiquitous in the protests. The farmers are defending their country. Their patriotism is strong.

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Minister Lollobrigida met with a delegation of farmers at an agricultural fair in Verona. Declaring that the meeting went well, he praised the farmers as “the foremost environmentalists in Italy” as “they protect what is most precious to them, the land that gives them their bread.” He added that it is necessary “to protect the ‘Made in Italy’ brand because we are a small nation, and if we do not defend our level of quality, the right price, the right income of our farmers, we as a nation will lose our sense of existing.”

Lollobrigida welcomed the fact that agriculture is again a national issue: “For too long, agriculture has been ignored or relegated to a secondary role. Today, it is recovering its centrality. And the government welcomes this. In the past few years, Europe has lost 24% of its agricultural enterprises. This had to end. We will fight this battle together, and we will win.”

The farmers that met with Lollobrigida were predominantly from the north. They have a long tradition of supporting national policies and voting for the center-right. Not surprisingly, Matteo Salvini, leader of the Lega party, a partner in the Meloni government, openly sided with the farmers and attacked EU president Ursula von der Leyen: “Personally I would not vote for Von der Leyen. I think that the European Union in recent years has been a disaster for savers, car owners, homeowners, farmers, truck drivers, and workers.”

“We confirm our support for the Umbrian farmers who, in recent weeks, have been protesting against European policies and asking the government for support on critical issues,” said Stefano Pastorelli, Lega leader in Umbria, in central Italy.

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However, a small remnant of protesters, mostly from the south, are openly attacking the government. They obviously side with the left and are using these protests as a means of class struggle backed by leftist unions. They constitute a minuscule minority as the overwhelming majority of protesters eschew this leftist infiltration. For example, during a protest in Terni, the leftist minority was excluded from the march.

The protests in Italy have gone straight to the heart of the problem: the EU’s green policies. As a major newspaper concludes, “The protest is, specifically, against the agricultural policies of the European Union, seen as over-restrictive. Concretely, the farmers are protesting against the so-called Green Deal.”

The Green Deal refers to the environmental policies of the European Union, adopted in 2019, which seek to achieve “climate neutrality” by the year 2050. This is a neologism coined to describe a situation in which Europe would have zero environmental and climate impact. The path towards this climate neutrality passes through the drastic reduction of so-called greenhouse gases, beginning with carbon dioxide en route to “de-carbonizing” the economy.

The European Union accuses farmers of producing only 2% of Europe’s GNP but more than 10% of the greenhouse gases, targeting them as “public enemy number one” alongside the automobile industry. But while the latter has ample means of defending itself, the farmers are left out in the cold.

“The European Union has proposed this crazy idea that the farmer is the main enemy of the land, that the farmer is he who destroys the environment. This is madness because the farmer uses the land as his principal resource. It is the land that permits him to live. To think that he destroys his very means of subsistence is madness,” reasons Minister Lollobrigida.

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Indeed, the term most widely used in Italy to describe the present situation is madness. European farmers and cattle raisers are being paid not to produce, while Europe imports food and livestock from abroad, negatively impacting its trade balance and favoring foreign countries over their own people.

A case in point is that of Sicilian oranges. Sicily has a centuries-old tradition of producing exquisite oranges. For reasons unknown, the European Union decided to discard Sicilian oranges and, instead, import them from Northern Africa, thus ruining hundreds of local producers, as produce is simply left to rot. In the past ten years, 30% of Italy’s agricultural activities have been forced to close down.

The latest European idiocy is crop rotation. Starting in 2024-2025, Italian farmers will be forced to produce corn and wheat in alternate years. “A nuclear bomb on Italian agriculture,” a farmer’s magazine aptly describes it. “Europe attacks Italy and wants to change its fields.” Italy has been producing wheat since Roman times and corn since 1493 when Cristopher Columbus brought it from the East. How dare these petty EUrocrats meddle with a millenary tradition?

A major wheat producer (just think of its pasta), Italy nonetheless has to import flour to satisfy its internal market. This EU-enforced crop rotation will negatively impact its trade balance, forcing the country to import even more wheat and thus lower the quality of its pasta.

“And now what do we do?” asked the Corriere della Sera, Italy’s leading newspaper. “The traditional Apulian chessboard, with its undulating fields of grain billowed by the wind, will disappear. This is not only an agricultural revolution; it is a cultural one.”

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This is not the first time Italian farmers have rebelled against the European Union. In 2010, for example, the Sardinian Shepherds Movement led by Felice Floris organized an impressive demonstration in Cagliari, protesting against artificially low prices for goat milk, a major asset in Sardinia.

In 2019, the so-called Milk War was sparked by the EU’s decision to impose quotas that would have drastically reduced production, forcing thousands of dairy farmers to collapse. Milk producers poured thousands of liters of milk on roads and public squares. The strangest thing is that Italy has a shortage of milk. Indeed, it has to import 24 million liters a day. Why cut down on local production? Madness.

The current protests, however, are markedly different. The sheer size of the protests, involving farmers across Italy, shows that this is perceived as a life-or-death crisis. At the same time, the protests are going straight to the heart of the matter: the EU’s green policies, which are choking Italy’s farmland.

The European Commission has already announced that it will revise some rules to address the farmers’ demands. Not enough! say the farmers. Not enough! Say we. Until Brussels cancels the Green Deal altogether and abandons its dictatorial meddling into local affairs, the problem will remain.

The real question, of course, is, do we really need the European Commission?

This article first appeared in the Polish newspaper Nasz Dziennik.

Photo Credit:  © Kris Tan – stock.adobe.com

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