Trade

Italian farmers’ union flexes its political muscle

It was once the Vatican that had the most important eyes and ears in every corner of rural Italy.

Now churchgoing is waning and politicians hunting votes increasingly depend on another power-broker with that kind of all-pervasive reach: Coldiretti, the country’s leading farming union.

In a highly fragmented country, Coldiretti is one of the few power networks to run nationwide, down the whole mountainous boot, from the Alpine villages of Trentino to the Mediterranean island of Pantelleria. Since its creation in 1944, it often acted in lockstep with the Vatican to drum up support for the centrist Christian Democrats against the post-war surge of Communism, and it now claims a massive web of influence based on 1.6 million members and 800 regional offices.

The mandatory labels are an unambiguous testament to the sway of Coldiretti

Securing Coldiretti’s matrix of rural voters at election time comes at a high price, however. Over the past decades, the union has extracted benefits for farmers from governments of every political hue, including health insurance, pensions and — more recently — a landmark tax cut.

Buoyed by these domestic victories, Coldiretti is now making demands that trigger alarm on the global stage.

Led by 37-year-old Roberto Moncalvo, the farmers are at the vanguard of a well-oiled, but highly contentious, campaign to enshrine the “Made in Italy” label for the country’s most cherished foodstuffs, from pasta to tomatoes. Steered by Coldiretti, Italy’s government rolled out mandatory origin labels for dairy, pasta and rice over recent months, even though Rome’s legislation could spark battles with both the European Commission and major international farming powerhouses like Canada and Brazil.

Members of the Italian farmers union Coldiretti demonstrate on March 7, 2017 in Rome for more assistance following an earthquake that hit between the Marche, Abruzzo, Umbria and Lazio regions in Italy | Vincenzo Pinto/AFP via Getty Images

Compulsory origin labels are one of the most hotly contested topics in food policy. The European Union argues that they should be voluntary, and that obligatory labels pose a threat to the single market by encouraging consumers to buy local. Ottawa complains that the labels are simply protectionism, intended to bolster Italian farmers by turning consumers against durum wheat from the plains of Canada (from which more than half of Italian pasta is made).

Calling the shots

Given these sensitivities, the mandatory labels are an unambiguous testament to the sway of Coldiretti: Italy’s government decided it was better to risk years of international legal tussles rather than disappoint the farmers. Legally, Rome was supposed to clear its labeling move with Brussels first, but didn’t. Major agricultural exporters such as the U.S., Canada and Brazil have also raised their concerns about Italian labels at the World Trade Organization.

“Straight up, Coldiretti has power,” said Paolo De Castro, a former Italian agriculture minister who is now a lawmaker who sits on the European Parliament’s agriculture committee. “If I look overall at their relationship with the government in the last 10 or 15 years, the role of Coldiretti has been central both for governments on the center-right and center-left. The question now is how they continue to influence a growing movement to support ‘Made in Italy,’ not only at national level but, most importantly, at EU level.”

De Castro said “Made in Italy” labels are not protectionism but simply provide consumers with information they have every right to know

Italy’s centrist parties are descendants of the post-war Christian Democrats, which unraveled in the major tangentopoli bribery scandal in the early 1990s. The historian Salvatore Lupo describes the union as having been both a “creation” of the Christian Democrat movement and an “important pressure” group on the party.

Like many Italian policymakers, De Castro said “Made in Italy” labels are not protectionism but simply provide consumers with information they have every right to know. “It is very important to improve knowledge for the consumer. If canned tomatoes are coming from China they should not be labeled as Italian tomatoes,” he added.

In an interview, Moncalvo was happy to take the credit for Italy’s sledgehammer approach to labels.

“We have built all the social discussion on mandatory labels of origin … We have built this discussion in the years of 2001 and 2002 and it was at the base of our alliance with society and consumers.”

The farmers’ friend

The labeling bills won the group huge support in rural areas where farmers are concerned about possible cuts to their EU subsidies following Brexit, and rice farmers fret over cheap imports from countries like Thailand and Cambodia.

Always a force to be reckoned with, Coldiretti has been riding a wave of confidence since 2015. During Milan’s World Expo that September, then-Prime Minister Matteo Renzi addressed a 30,000-strong crowd waving yellow Coldiretti flags to tell them the government would implement a new policy exempting farmers from having to pay an unpopular property tax known as IMU.

“It’s the largest tax exemption in agriculture of the last 50 years,” Moncalvo said proudly, adding that Renzi had never previously engaged with his association during his political career. The following year, in an identical flag-waving rally, Renzi announced to farmers that he would roll out origin labels for milk.

This year, Coldiretti also successfully convinced large food processors such as Ferrero — the maker of the confectionary items Nutella and Kinder Surprise — to join a new association called Filiera Italia, to fight so-called traffic light labels in France and the U.K. These warning labels slap the color red on highly sugary, fatty or salty foods, putting Italian products such as olive oil and Parmigiano Reggiano in the danger zone.

“All their policies are geared to give the Coldiretti brand a greater value” — Mario Guidi, former president of Confagricoltura

Representing some 75 percent of Italy’s farmers, the union has also fought strongly against the illegal employment of agricultural workers for little pay and recently participated in the launch of a research center called Osservatorio Agromafie to raise awareness about the role played by the mafia in the agri-food sectors.

Playing to the crowd

Coldiretti’s critics, however, accuse it of spreading a populist, negative message on issues such as pesticides, genetically modified crops and even the recently concluded EU trade agreement with Canada, CETA. Many farmers fear big EU trade deals with heavyweight meat and grain exporters such as Canada.

“All their policies are geared to give the Coldiretti brand a greater value, as seen with their [negative] stance on [the pesticide] glyphosate and CETA,” said Mario Guidi, the former president of Confagricoltura, a union representing large agricultural enterprises. “Ninety-nine percent of the agricultural sector knows how important the herbicide is, but Coldiretti provided no vocal support to the herbicide as it did not want to aggravate the political parties opposing it.”

Coldiretti banners hang from the Milan Stock Exchange, where pig farmers held a protest in 2011. In front of the building stands a 36-foot-tall sculpture by Maurizio Cattelan, middle finger extended skyward | Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images

Though Guidi recognized Coldiretti had become the No. 1 Italian agricultural organization, and that its work impresses politicians on both sides of political spectrum, he doubted the union was really at the service of farmers and was more dedicated to its own advancement.

“What have they actually achieved for farmers?” he asked. “Nothing, but for Coldiretti a lot.”

Moncalvo has pushed back hard against accusations that Coldiretti is on the make, and denied Italian press reports accusing one of its most senior officials of earning millions of euros.

Its raison d’être, he said, is to defend the interest of local farmers and consumers. The EU trade agreement with Canada was a clear example of a case where Coldiretti was willing to strike out against Rome.

“We praised [Italian Agriculture Minister Maurizio] Martina for his support for origin labels and we marched against the government when they announced they intended to ratify CETA,” he said.

“Our rationale is that we present proposals and we praise those who support them, as it was the case with origin labeling … We attack whoever supports policies that we disagree with.”

Jacopo Barigazzi contributed reporting.

This article is part of the special report Leveraging Food Labels.

Original Article

Related Articles

56 Comments

  1. Howdy are using WordPress for your blog platform?
    I’m new to the blog world but I’m trying to get started and create my own.
    Do you require any coding knowledge to make your own blog?
    Any help would be really appreciated!

    my blog … gaming world joker388 (918kiss-m.com)

  2. I do agree with all the concepts you have offered in your
    post. They are really convincing and will certainly work.
    Still, the posts are too brief for novices. Could you please lengthen them a little from
    subsequent time? Thanks for the post.

    Visit my webpage lpe88apk android

  3. Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and
    wanted to say that I’ve really enjoyed surfing around your blog posts.

    After all I’ll be subscribing to your rss feed and I hope you
    write again soon!

    Feel free to visit my page: playboy2 free download – 918kiss-m.com

  4. I’m curious to find out what blog system you
    have been utilizing? I’m experiencing some minor security issues with
    my latest website and I’d like to find something more safeguarded.

    Do you have any recommendations?

    Also visit my site: club suncity pc

  5. Hello very cool blog!! Guy .. Excellent .. Amazing .. I
    will bookmark your site and take the feeds additionally?
    I am happy to find so many useful information here in the
    submit, we need work out extra techniques on this regard, thank you for sharing.
    . . . . .

  6. I got this web page from my friend who shared with me on the topic of this web site
    and now this time I am browsing this web site and reading very informative articles
    or reviews here.

    My blog :: ex888 apk

  7. Saya telah menjelajah online lebih dari 3 jam hari ini,
    namun saya tidak pernah menemukan artikel menarik seperti milik Anda.
    It is cukup berharga bagi saya. Menurut pendapat saya , jika semua pemilik situs web dan blogger membuat konten yang baik
    seperti yang Anda lakukan, internet akan menjadi lebih berguna dari
    sebelumnya.

    My web page … Joker168net

  8. Sweet blog! I found it while surfing around on Yahoo News.
    Do you have any tips on how to get listed in Yahoo News?
    I’ve been trying for a while but I never seem to
    get there! Thanks

    Feel free to surf to my blog post – xee888 apk

  9. Saya telah telah berselancar online lebih dari 4 jam hari ini, namun saya tidak pernah menemukan artikel menarik seperti milik Anda.
    It is cukup berharga bagi saya. Dalam pandangan saya, jika semua webmaster dan blogger membuat konten yang
    baik seperti yang Anda lakukan, internet akan menjadi lebih
    berguna dari sebelumnya.

    my homepage: Www joker3999net daftar

  10. Unqᥙestionably imagime that that you saіd. Your favorite justification appеared
    to bee oon thе net thee easiest thong tto һave in mind of.
    I say to yⲟu, I certainly get annoyeԁ while other people think aЬout concerns tbat they just don’t understand about.
    Yoս managed to hit the nail uрon the һighest and also outlied
    out tһe entire thing without haviing side effеct , other
    folks cаn take a signal. Wiⅼl pгoƄaЬly be
    again to get more. Thank you

  11. Saya akan segera kopling rss Anda karena saya tidak bisa

    Saya telah menjelajah on-line lebih dari 3 jam sekarang ,
    tapi Saya sama sekali menemukan artikel menarik seperti milik Anda.
    It is beautiful price cukup untuk saya. Menurut pendapat saya , jika semua pemilik situs
    dan blogger membuat luar biasa materi konten seperti Anda mungkin did,
    net akan lebih membantu dari sebelumnya.

    Visit my web blog … Joker123 apk login – https://gameaco.com/

  12. Hello, I think your website might be having browser
    compatibility issues. When I look at your blog in Ie, it looks fine but
    when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping.
    I just wanted to give you a quick heads up! Other
    then that, awesome blog!

    my webpage – 카지노사이트

  13. Good day! I know this is kinda off topic however I’d figured I’d ask.

    Would you be interested in exchanging links or maybe guest writing a
    blog article or vice-versa? My website goes over a lot of
    the same subjects as yours and I think we could greatly
    benefit from each other. If you’re interested feel free to shoot me an e-mail.
    I look forward to hearing from you! Superb blog by the way!

  14. natսrally like your web-site however you have to take a look at the spelling on quite a few of yourr posts.
    Maany of them are rіfe with spelling issues ɑnd I to find it very tгoubⅼesome to tell the truth nevertheless I will
    definitely come again ɑgain.

  15. Nice post. I was checking continuously this blog and I’m inspired!
    Very useful info specifically the last part
    🙂 I take care of such info much. I used to be looking for this particular information for a long time.
    Thank you and good luck.

  16. Gooⅾ day! This iss kind oof off topic but I neеd some advice
    from an estаblished blog. Is it diffіcult to
    ѕet uup your own blog? I’m not very techincal buut I can figurе things out pretty quick.
    I’m thinking about sefting up my own but I’m not sure
    where to start. Do you have any points orr suggestions?
    Cheers

  17. When I originally commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get four emails with the same
    comment. Is there any way you can remove people from that
    service? Appreciate it!

  18. I absolutely love your site.. Great cklors & theme. Dіd yoս make
    this website yourself? Please reply ƅack ass I’m attempting to create my own blkog
    and would love to find out where yⲟu got this from or exaϲtly what the
    thheme іs cаlled. Many thanks!

  19. Saya telah telah menjelajah online lebih dari tiga jam hari ini, namun saya tidak pernah menemukan artikel menarik seperti milik Anda.
    It is cukup berharga bagi saya. Menurut pendapat saya , jika semua webmaster dan blogger membuat konten yang baik seperti yang
    Anda lakukan, web akan menjadi lebih berguna dari sebelumnya.

    Also visit my web-site: Joker123 apk amanbet

  20. Saya akan segera rebut rss feed Anda karena saya tidak bisa

    Sangat keren! Beberapa poin yang
    Hai, Menurut saya ini luar biasa situs web .
    Saya tersandung;) Saya akan kembali lagi karena saya memiliki
    buku menandai itu. Uang dan kebebasan adalah yang terbesar cara untuk berubah, semoga Anda kaya dan terus membantu orang lain.

    Look at my web page … Joker 888 [Arlene]

  21. Wһat i don’t understood is in faϲt how you’re not acxtսally
    much more neatly-apprecіated than you may be rigght now.
    Ⲩou arе very intelligent. You ealize thereforе
    considerably relating tto this subject, produced me for my part ⅽonsider it from so
    many variouѕ angles. Its like women and men are not
    fascinated սntil it is onne thing tto do with Lady gaga!
    Your own stuffs nice. Always maintain it
    up!

  22. Saya akan segera rebut rss feed Anda karena saya tidak bisa
    Ini waktu terbaik untuk membuat beberapa rencana untuk jangka panjang dan sekarang waktu untuk bahagia.
    Saya pelajari kirim ini dan jika saya bisa saya ingin menasihati Anda beberapa menarik
    masalah atau tips. Mungkin Anda bisa
    menulis artikel berikutnya mengenai artikel ini.
    Saya ingin mempelajari lebih lagi masalah kira-kira itu!

    Review my web page Jpjoker123 apk

  23. I’ve been surfing on-line greater than three hours as of late, but I by no means found any
    attention-grabbing article like yours. It is pretty worth sufficient for me.

    Personally, if all webmasters and bloggers made just right content material as you probably did, the net can be much more useful than ever
    before.

    my blog post – 먹튀검증

  24. Saya telah menjelajah online lebih dari 3 jam hari ini, namun saya tidak pernah menemukan artikel
    menarik seperti milik Anda. It’s cukup berharga bagi saya.

    Menurut pendapat saya , jika semua pemilik web dan blogger membuat
    konten yang baik seperti yang Anda lakukan, internet akan menjadi lebih berguna dari
    sebelumnya.

    Have a look at my page Agen joker123 slot

  25. Saya akan segera ambil rss Anda karena saya tidak bisa
    Ini waktu sempurna untuk membuat beberapa rencana untuk masa
    depan dan sekarang waktu untuk berbahagia. Saya telah membaca posting
    ini dan jika saya bisa, saya ingin menyarankan Anda
    beberapa hal menarik atau saran . Mungkin Anda
    bisa menulis artikel berikutnya yang mengacu pada artikel
    ini. Saya ingin membaca lebih banyak lagi hal tentang
    itu!

    Also visit my homepage Joker123 slot indonesia
    (gameaco.com)

  26. Betting can be of several forms, with each type
    requiring its own legal arrangement. In Nevada, for example, there is what’s known as a”suit.” A suit is an agreement or
    a contract involving a individual placing a bet and the individual or group putting
    the cash at stake. In certain countries, a”gaming accounts” is
    made in which money deposited into the account is kept by
    a bookmaker and isn’t accessible to players;
    others let online gambling but do not permit offline gaming.
    Finally, you will find”rollover” transactions in which the money in a participant’s account is
    removed before it’s used. This way, the expression gaming covers a wide range of transactions and
    can refer to all of them, as each has its own set of conditions under which it can take place.

  27. I know tһis iif off topіc but I’m looking into staгting
    my own blog and waas curious what all iѕ required to get setup?
    I’m assuming havіng a bloց like yours would
    cost a pretty рenny? I’m nnot very web smart soo I’m not 100% certaіn. Any tips or adice woᥙld be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks

  28. Gambling can be of many types, with each type requiring its own legal
    structure. In Nevada, for example, there is what is known as a”lawsuit” A suit is an agreement or
    a contract involving a individual placing a wager and the person or group putting the money
    at stake. In some countries, a”gaming accounts” is made in which money deposited
    to the account is kept by means of a bookmaker and is not
    accessible to players; others allow online gambling but
    don’t permit offline gaming. In the end, there
    are”rollover” transactions in which the money in a player’s account is
    removed before it’s used. In this manner, the expression gambling covers a vast selection of
    transactions and may refer to all of them, as each has its own set of
    circumstances under which it may occur.

  29. I blog quite often and I genuinely appreciate your
    content. Your article has really peaked my interest.
    I’m going to book mark your blog and keep checking for new details about once per week.
    I subscribed to your RSS feed as well.

    Here is my page … 우리카지노

  30. Hi excellent blog! Does running a blog such as this require a large amount of work?
    I have virtually no knowledge of computer programming however I had been hoping to start my own blog
    in the near future. Anyways, should you have any recommendations or
    tips for new blog owners please share. I understand this
    is off topic nevertheless I simply wanted to ask.
    Many thanks!

    My web page :: 메이저놀이터

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button