Analysis and Reflections on Rural Reform

Analysis and Reflections on Rural Reform

1. Introduction
Agriculture has a value for the territory that is more than its mere productive ability. This role, defined by the European Union with the term Multifunctionality, is greatly compromised by endogenous and exogenous factors that risk to destroy the sector.

The dynamism of factors correlated to the agricultural world are generating more and more issues and difficulties which, without a general and comprehensive view, risk to compromise the delicate social, ecological and productive fabric even more.
The Regional Federation of Agronomists and Foresters in Sicily intends to promote actions which will sensitize and therefore direct those Government officials who are responsible for this sector toward an overall Political view. Therefore, the Project aims to reassess the sector through the integrated analysis of the issues and the consequent formulation of resolutive solutions.
The work aims to correlate and evaluate the criticality of the more general aspects of Policy in this sector, both at a regional level and at a national and European one, considering both the interventions and the concessions present in the sector (Programmes, Support Policies, etc.), and the factors that influence the sector (Market, cost of work, fiscal pressure, etc.).

2. General outline of the Sector

The scenario which regards the factors of agricultural production is varied and complex but it is possible to identify some critical aspects that can be analyzed individually and correlated to the whole.
It is possible to divide these aspects into endogenous and exogenous factors, depending on the fact that these can be steered by actions taken within an enterprise or are dependent on external forces.

Let us analyze the endogenous factors:
– An excessive productive specialization and a low internal biodiversity of a lot of farms with an excessive dependence on the dynamics of the market;
– A preoccupying reduction of agricultural, food and intraspecies biodiversity, with an evident diminution also in productive typification;
– An elevated use of synthetic fertilizers and fungicides with disastrous repercussions on useful flora and fauna (also on the soil) and on the structurality of the land (leaching and landslides);
– A preoccupying reduction in the fertility of the soil with a loss of the pedological patrimony, also due to the progressive reduction of animals on farms (effect on Organic Substance);
– Low rate of closure of the productive chain;
– Low contribution of public and private technical support to farms;

Let us analyze the exogenous factors:
– An unbalanced relationship between costs/profits in the agricultural sector due to the elevated cost of productive factors (synthetic products, fuel, machinery, etc.);
– The elevated distance regarding the transportation of goods (and of production factors) with an elevated incidence both on costs and on the emission of CO2 (Kyoto protocol);
– Excessive susceptibility and dependence on market fluctuations;
– Negative repercussions of large-scale distribution chains on both the returns of businesses and on the presence of local sales points;
– Increase in the average age of workers;
-Jobs in the industry are not very attractive, leading to a diminution of workers;
– Excessive bureaucratic and normative pressure;
– Inadequate application of sanitary and quality concepts in the rural sector.
-Inappropriate fiscal pressure;
– Difficulty of access to Credit at favourable rates;
– A distortional effect on agricultural and food production and markets because of the use of public financing;
– Excessive fragmentation and pulverization of farms;
– Soil erosion due to urbanisation with a preoccupying loss of the rural patrimony.

3. Operational proposals

The abovementioned analysis obviously aims to produce some detailed reflections that can lead to precise interventions with the aim of reformulating (or in many cases formulating from scratch) the Policies of the sector.
Some basic reflections and elements have emerged from the first meetings and these elements, which can later be summarised, can be useful for a revaluation of future models and prototypes of viable Policy:
Agricultural farms represent a Patrimony and continued fertility; their deterioration (fertility, human abandonment, etc.) can not but be inserted in a patrimonial analysis which today depends exclusively on GDP and other detached financial indexes;
The productive dynamism and the economic analyses (Business Plans, Economic and Financial Indexes) of farms cannot be assimilated to industrial systems or services. These procedures, which do not take into account more complex assets (social value, ecosystemical value, etc…) are leading to inadequate policies and financial systems;
The protection and promotion of the sector cannot be exclusively subject to the system of Programmes (which suffer from an inadequate methodology to resolve such problems) in that these tend to put subsidized farms/ non-subsidized farms in competition (on the markets) even more.
The effect of globalization and the free circulation of commodities raises very delicate issues such as: the excessive distance involved in the transportation of these goods and of the productive factors (Kyoto protocol); excessive pressure of the markets on productive choices (that cannot be detached from agronomic factors); reduction in profits with a consequent decrease in the attractiveness of the sector.

Guido Bissanti

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