The “tractor protests” in Italy and Europe, farmers against the CAP: what happens and why

For several days, first in Germany and then into France, Italy And other countries European farmers take to the streets to protest against the measures of CAP, the Common Agricultural Policy of European Union. The protest concerns various points, including the increase in production costs caused by the elimination of subsidies for the purchase of diesel fuel, obligations deriving from the need to allocate some agricultural areas to nature conservation and the cutting of some subsidies for the agricultural sector. But what is the CAP, what are its objectives and what is happening?

Protests by European farmers

Already since last December Germany protests began by workers in the agricultural sector: although Olaf Scholz’s government had promised funding for the energy transition towards renewable energy and economic support for the sector, in reality it was forced to reduce public spending with a consequent general increase in taxes and a cut in agricultural subsidies. In addition to this, the possibility of the membership of theUkraine to the European Union has given rise to fears on the impact from an agricultural point of view of the distribution of subsidies by the European Union and on production costs, given that this country is a major agricultural power on a global level. In addition to Germany, the protest also spread to France, Poland, Romania, Italy, Belgium and Holland, spreading to more and more EU countries.

The reasons are in particular against the effects resulting from the environmental reforms of the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy of the European Union) and by increasing costs. Some of these choices of the new CAP derive from adherence to the choices of the European Green Deal, that is, the set of policies that the European Commission has implemented to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. The Green Deal focuses on agriculture and rural areas, with the “Net Zero Emissions” objective, which provides for a reduction in net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030. The farmers’ requests mainly concern fairer subsidiesa delay in the introduction of synthetic meat onto the European market (for which some countries including Italy have requested an extension of 12 months), and also measures regulating the use of photovoltaic systems on productive land and the reduction in the cost of fuel.

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The reasons for the “tractor protests”

In the 2020 the European Commission had proposed a regulation that should have halve the use of pesticides in agriculture by 2030. This proposal was significantly scaled down by the European Parliament last November, significantly extending the reduction times and modifying many criteria for the progressive reduction of pesticides. Nonetheless, many farmers criticize these measures because, although they are based on sustainability objectives, they foresee limitations excessively complex bureaucratic procedures and lack of adequate subsidies and funding for these transitions.

A further element of concern, in addition to the measures envisaged by the CAP, is that of unfair competition of non-European countries that do not have the obligation to respect standards such as those in force within the EU, damaging the interests of farmers who protest against a lack of regulation in this area.

These protests, which are increasingly spreading to more European countries, could also represent an important point for the next elections European Parliament which will be held in June 2024: what is asked is greater dialogue and involvement of the agricultural sector in the agricultural policies developed by the EU. Meanwhile, in Germany as well as in France and Italy, the protests are led by far-right parties in their battles against European policies, generating a climate of uncertainty and tension that does not seem to be easing at the moment.

What is the CAP and what is it for

There CAP, acronym for Common Agricultural Policy, refers to the policy measures implemented by the European Union regarding agriculture and the rural sector. It was created in 1962 and every 7 years, based on the economic, social and environmental changes that occur in Europe and around the world, it is reprogrammed and modified with new rules and new objectives. The seven-year CAP 2023-2027 that has just begun, characterized by the need to contribute to global environmental and climate protection objectives, is made up of ten key objectives, the main ones of which are: increasing competitiveness, guaranteeing a fair income for farmers and supporting turnover generational, act to combat climate change, protect food quality and health, promoteoccupation in the agricultural sector, safeguard the EU’s rural areas, promote the sustainable management of resources.

The CAP is financed through two funds: The European Agricultural Guarantee Fund (EAGF) of about 291 billion euros for the next seven years, which provides direct support to farmers and finances market support and regulation measures. The second is the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) Of 95 billion of euros from 2023 to 2027, which finances rural development through measures that promote the sustainable management of natural resources, competitiveness of the agricultural sector, the sustainability of rural communities with respect to the territory. The new CAP for the four-year period 2023-2027 it must also contribute to respecting the contents of the European Green Deal, as regards agriculture and rural areas, protecting biodiversity and the sustainability objectives set by the Union. Farmers who intend to benefit from the economic support of specific CAP measures must from time to time apply farming or cultivation systems based on certain rules of good agronomic and environmental conduct.

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