Italy to review its CAP plan amid calls for ‘reorientation’ and flexibility

Stefano Patuanelli is Italy's agriculture minister. [HOSLET/EPA]

This article is part of our special report How the Ukraine war is reshaping the CAP.

Read this article in Italian.

Italy is looking at the possibility of “reorienting” its national strategic plan to implement the EU’s farming subsidies programme to support strategic agricultural production in response to the economic consequences of the Ukraine war.

At the end of March, the European Commission sent its observation letter on Italy’s national strategic plan, reproaching Rome in particular for its distribution of subsidies – considered unbalanced in favour of the livestock farms of the Po Valley – and lack of ambition in terms of environmental protection.

Through these plans, EU countries set out how they intend to meet the nine EU-wide objectives of the reformed CAP. Italy’s agriculture ministry expects to transmit an updated version of its plan by the end of July.

Even before the initial evaluation from Brussels, however, agriculture Minister Stefano Patuanelli said that while considering the CAP reform “the best possible balance point,” it is necessary “to think about a postponed entry into force of the new CAP, perhaps having 2023 as a further year of transition to face the current emergency” linked to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

When first put forward by Patuanelli in March, the idea of flexible entry into force of the CAP reform raised a few eyebrows amon the other bloc’s agriculture ministers.

He then clarified that Italy’s request involved an adjustment to the plans for 2023 only to safeguard the Green Deal objectives in farming.

According to Patuanelli, granting greater flexibility in 2023 as happened in 2021-22 during the pandemic could prevent the need for structural changes to national strategic plans, which would then apply to the entire CAP programming period until 2027.

Italy, Slovakia call to rethink CAP in light of Ukraine war

Slovakia and Italy have called for adjusting the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), including a policy postponement and a reconsideration of the EU’s green ambitions amid fears of food insecurity caused by the war in Ukraine.

No structural changes

“I am personally convinced that we should not retreat from the challenging objectives of the new CAP and therefore that, instead of thinking about a structural modification of the Strategic Plans, a suspension of the entry into force of the new regulations should be considered,” Putuanelli said.

According to him, the government guidelines to tackle the crisis are two, namely “a series of emergency interventions to support liquidity and reduce company costs” and the “acceleration of the implementation of the National Recovery Plan (NRP), to ensure energy diversification of companies and strengthen the efficiency of the supply chains.”

The ministry of agriculture has allocated €60 million to renegotiate the loans of agricultural companies and support those most affected by the consequences of the war and has introduced a tax credit for the purchase of fuel.

On the acceleration of the NRP, Patuanelli said that “the central element is energy diversification”. On 25 March, the minister signed a decree-law relating to solar energy parks on farms.

The plan allocates €1.5 billion to support the installation of photovoltaic panels on the roofs of agricultural buildings, which will allow Italian agri-companies to reduce the cost of their bills and become increasingly self-sufficient in the energy field.

“The target to be achieved is the installation of panels for a total power of 375,000 kW, thus helping to support the energy diversification process, now more necessary than ever for the entire national production system”, Patuanelli added.

Farmers’ requests

The effects of the conflict in Ukraine prompted Italian farmers to ask the government to change the national CAP plan.

On March 8, Agrinsieme, an association that brings together different farmers’ organisations, stated that “it is urgent to protect the national production potential, specifically for the arable sector, and rethink some European choices in the energy field.”

The coordinator of the association, Massimilano Giansanti, explained that “looking at the community horizon, we believe that the adoption of the new CAP should be temporarily suspended, as well as the greening obligation; in the same way, an extension of the implementation of the Farm to Fork strategy would be necessary, revising it in the light of today’s situation.”

Ettore Prandini, the president of Coldiretti, the largest organisation of Italian farmers, said that “with the extraordinary interventions decided by the EU Commission, 200 thousand hectares of land can be recovered in Italy for cultivation for an additional production of about 15 million quintals of corn for farms, durum wheat for pasta and soft wheat for bread making necessary to reduce dependence on foreign countries.”

Prandini also put forward proposals for revision of the recognition of genome editing technology, the reduction of VAT on food, and the renegotiation of the debt of entrepreneurs with a public guarantee.

[Edited by Gerardo Fortuna/Alice Taylor/Benjamin Fox]

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