Confagricoltura: “We don’t celebrate the return of young people to farming”

Many topics were discussed during the conference at Ville Ponti: from the new generations that are coming to agriculture, to associations, to bureaucracy, which diverts the entrepreneur from his business.

assemblea confagricoltura 2011 pasquale gervasini

Judging by the size of the audience, it does not seem that farmers and agriculture are marginal matters in Varese Province. At the 69th general assembly of the General Confederation of Italian Agriculture (Confagricoltura), there were the Prefect of Varese, Giorgio Zanzi, the MPs Maria Chiara Gadda (PD) and Stefano Candiani (Lega Nord), the President of the Regional Council, Raffaele Cattaneo, and the three candidates for the Mayor of Varese, Stefano Malerba, Paolo Orrigoni and Davide Galimberti, and Attilio Fontana, the current Mayor.

At Ville Ponti, there were also a great many members and, above all, national and regional Confagricoltura leaders, the Presidents Mario Guidi and Matteo Lasagna, and Stefano Lamberti, the President of Young Farmers Lombardy.

The speech by the President, Pasquale Gervasini, was preceded by a documentary about the world of young farmers, by Alessandro Damiani. This choice was in line with the title of the meeting; “The future is for young people, also in agriculture.”

However, during his speech, Gervasini warned about easy rhetoric used for young people’s return to farming. “You can’t improvise being a farmer,” he said. “People don’t come back to farming just because it’s trendy or because you’re just tired of doing other things.” The cases considered during the video-interview concern traditional production: milk, meat, cheese and vegetables. The answers given by today’s farmers are the standard ones, of an “entrepreneurial ecosystem” (an expression used by Federico Visconti, the Dean of the LIUC University in Castellanza, who participated as a speaker) under stress because of bureaucracy, which for Italian milk producers, for example, causes an additional cost of 5 cents per litre, compared to their European competitors, because of prices that are too low to recompense the work, because of the excessive quantity of “useless paperwork” that make the job more difficult, and because of the impatience of people, who “don’t consider the farmer to be indispensable and complain when they come across a tractor on the road, but then want to see farm products in the shops.”

These topics were also discussed during the debate chaired by Sebastiano Barisoni, the deputy director of Radio24. “Here, we have a country that has difficulty in acknowledging the business culture, that is, the social value of business. This is why it isn’t a country for entrepreneurs.”

At the heart of the debate, there was the topic of the size of businesses, and the resulting need to form associations at various levels, a point that all of the speakers agreed upon.

On the subject of young people returning to agriculture, Lamberti was categorical. “A lot of rhetoric has been used on this matter, and we were riding high on sensational headlines, but in fact, looking at the actual numbers, we can say that the +16% boom related only to a small number; the truth is that the number of businesses that have joined has fallen.”

Politics has been a great disappointment for Italian farmers, above all, because it is unable to support good causes in Europe (the matter of milk quotas is emblematic), although President Guidi himself admitted that the trade associations made a big strategic mistake years ago. However, the problem is still that the system has difficulty in evolving.

“We’re going through a cultural phase,” said Federico Visconti, “in which everyone thinks about the procedure and the bureaucratic mechanism, whereas the economic enterprise needs to travel freely. The real pesticide on the entrepreneurial ecosystem is not thinking in line with development.”

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