PM Giorgia Meloni promised her government will take action to make sure farmers’ get fair prices for their produce during a meeting with agricultural associations on Friday. However, farmer tractor protests continued in many parts of the country.
Meloni said the government would boost law-enforcement checks on unfair trading practices. It will also increase monitoring of the prices of agricultural products and the average production costs of the main supply chains.
“We want to address the very important issue of production costs,” Meloni said during the encounter, according to sources. “We want to prevent products being sold below the cost of production and give farmers a fair price”.
She also said that a tax-relief measure regarding income-tax Irpef for farmers would be changed, rather than scrapped completely, to ensure it is better targeted.
“In recent years the Irpef exemption has been an unfair measure that mainly favoured large entrepreneurs and companies with high business volumes,” Meloni said during two hours of talks, according to the sources.
“The government’s proposal is to help farmers who need it by limiting the Irpef exemption to agrarian and Sunday income that does not exceed €10,000.
“In other words, the Irpef exemption must be for the weakest, so it is concrete support to those who produce (food), and not a privilege”.
Is tax relief enough?
The question seemed to create some friction within the government, with Deputy Premier and Transport Minister Matteo Salvini saying the tax relief was not enough.
“I am convinced that we can do even more,” League leader Salvini said.
Agriculture Minister Francesco Lollobrigida, a leading member of Meloni’s Brothers of Italy (FdI), replied by saying that the Irpef exemptions will remain for 90% of Italian farmers. The intention had been to scrap it completely.
“As it was, the Irpef exemption created an imbalance between Italians,” Lollobrigida said. “It is right to continue to exempt those who need it in this time of difficulty.
“But there were exempted Italians who have incomes that are not just above average, they are also above average for the rich. This is not tax fairness.
“(Economy) Minister (Giancarlo) Giorgetti says the measure that will emerge from these talks will guarantee enough resources for more than 90% of agricultural enterprises”.
Tractor protests continue
Four tractors driven by farmers representing Agricultural Redemption, one of the several groups involved in the peaceful tractor protests gripping Italy, drove past the Colosseum on Friday morning as part of a small demonstration in the city.
The tractors, sounding their horns and escorted by police vehicles, were greeted with applause, thumbs-up signs and kisses as they made their drive-past before heading for Circo Massimo.
“For the first time tractors have entered the heart of the capital without flags behind them. It is a great result,” said Agricultural Redemption leader Salvatore Fais.
Of the increasingly evident divisions within the tractor protest movement, he said: “Each group has the same problems and each one wages its own battles”.
Meanwhile, the leader of one of farmer protest groups said today that a new protest will take place at Rome’s Circus Maximus arena next Thursday. Danilo Calvani, the leader of Cra Agricoltori ‘Betrayed Farmers’ group, said the protests would not stop after Meloni’s meetings yesterday.
“There will be at least 20,000 people,” said Calvani, announcing next Thursday’s protest.
“A group of our tractors will depart in a convoy from Cecchina and reach the heart of Rome, going as far as Circus Maximus. There should be about 15 vehicles, escorted by the forces of law order.
“Thursday’s will only be the first of our demonstrations. Our protest will go on”.
A handful of tractors went into central Rome on Friday, parading around the Colosseum, and a bigger protest was staged on the city’s GRA motorway ring-road in the evening.
Sanremo protest folds after announcement
However, farmers who went to protest at Sanremo have gone away after the presenter of the Sanremo Song Festival, Amadeus, read out a statement by stressing that they were not seeking additional subsidies or handouts, but measures to make sure they get a fair price for their produce, saying their revenues often do not cover their production costs at the moment.
The farmers from another protest group, Riscatto, are pondering their next move; although sources said they are reasonable satisfied at Friday’s developments.