Tractor protest, why are they protesting and what does it involve?

green tractor on brown grass field under blue sky during daytime

From the beginning February 2024, the Italian countryside has become the scene of one unique protest of its kind: that of tractors. Thousands of farmers have taken the reins of national movement, bringing to the streets not only their means of work, but also a series of urgent and crucial demands.

A mobilization that arose from exasperation over thedramatic increase in costs and agricultural policies deemed inadequate which highlighted the resilience and determination of a key sector for the Made in Italy:. The protest is a sort of wake-up call on issues of great importance such as environmental sustainability, economic justice and the defense of Italian quality, demonstrating the profound competence and passion of Italian farmers in protecting their work and the country's agricultural heritage.

But there is debate on some points raised by farmers, especially regarding the problem of pesticides.

The reasons for the protest

The roots of the tractor protest they sink into a series of complex and multifaceted issues that put Italian farmers to the test. At the center of the discontent are the unsustainable cost increases of fuel and raw materials, which have brought numerous agricultural companies to their knees, threatening their competitiveness and survival. To further complicate the situation, the European agricultural policies, such as the contested Pesticides Directive and strategy Farm to Fork, perceived as threats to Italian agriculture, as they are considered unsustainable and penalizing for the sector. Farmers are also faced with a market crisis aggravated by unfair competition, where low-cost foreign products and dumping practices put national production at risk. Faced with this scenario, the request is clear: concrete measures to support the sector, such as the reduction of excise duties on fuel, the reduction of energy costs and bureaucratic simplification, in addition to the valorisation of Italian products.

  • Increase in costs: fuel, agricultural diesel, raw materials.
  • European agricultural policies: Pesticides Directive, Farm to Fork strategy.
  • Market crisis: foreign competition, dumping practices.
  • Requests: support for the sector, cost reduction, valorisation of Italian products.

The protest actions

La protest of farmers has manifested itself through a series of incisive actions that have attracted the attention of public opinion and institutions. The roads and motorways of various Italian regions have been the scene of road blocks imposing, with rows of tractors that slowed down and, in some cases, interrupted traffic, becoming a tangible symbol of the hardship and determination of the agricultural sector. At the same time, cities like Milano, Roma e Florence saw processions and demonstrations take place, with thousands of farmers taking their demands to the streets, transforming the protest into a moment of sharing e visibility national. A significant moment was themeeting with the Government, during which a delegation of farmers had the opportunity to present their requests directly, opening a fundamental channel of dialogue for the search for shared solutions.

The results achieved

La tractor protest has already begun to reap the first fruits of his commitment and determination. One of his most significant victories was the withdrawal of the proposed Pesticides Directive by the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, which represented one of the most critical and contested points by farmers.

In addition, the 'commitment of the Italian Government to intervene in a concrete way to support the agricultural sector marks another important step towards recognizing the difficulties faced by farmers and the desire to find sustainable solutions.

What are the Pesticides Directive and the Farm to Fork strategy

One of the most debated and critical aspects within the tractor protest concerns European policies on agriculture, in particular the Pesticides Directive , Farm to Fork strategy. The Pesticides Directive, with the goal of promoting the sustainable use of pesticides reducing the risks to human health and the environment, included measures such as 50% reduction in use and the risk of chemical pesticides by 2030. Provisions which, although well intentioned, have raised concerns among farmers due to the possible repercussions on the competitiveness and productivity of the Italian agricultural sector.

At the same time, the strategy Farm to Fork, a pillar of the European Green Deal, aims to make food systems European healthier, fairer and more sustainable. Among the proposed measures, the 25% increase in the agricultural area dedicated to organic farming and a 20% reduction in fertilizer use by 2030. Again, farmers express concerns about the feasibility and economic impact of these objectives, fearing that they could result in further burdens and challenges for the sector.

The problem of pesticide exemptions

A particular question controversial within the pesticide debate concerns the use of exemptions which allow the temporary use of substances otherwise banned in the European Union. Waivers granted for limited periods of 120 days, which raised concerns regarding their justification and impact on human health and onClassic .

The contradiction is: if on the one hand policies are pushed to limit the use of pesticides, why is the use and import of products treated with certain pesticides that we already know are toxic allowed?

The Pan Europe organization has highlighted how, despite the restrictive regulatory framework, numerous Member States have made use of these exceptions, granting exemptions for substances considered highly dangerous.

Among the substances most often subject to exemptions are: neonicotinoids, insecticides known for their harmful effects on bees and other pollinating insects, and the diquat, an endocrine disrupting herbicide. The extensive and sometimes unjustified use of exemptions raised numerous questions on the coherence of European environmental policies and on the real protection offered to citizens and ecosystems.

In Italy, attention has focused in particular on the use of 1,3-Dichloropropene, a soil fumigant, for which several exemptions were granted over the years, with the last one in May 2023, often in favor of large pesticide manufacturing companies without there being even a technical analysis behind this exemption. The lack of transparency and solid technical justification for these exemptions fuels the debate on the need for more stringent regulation and more rigorous control over the exceptions granted.

The problem of organic farming

THEorganic farming it is often perceived as a plus solution Howdy e planet compared to conventional agriculture, but this vision is subject to debate and controversy. Despite the absence (or the small quantity, within certain limits) of synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers, there is no scientific evidence definitives that certify that organic products offer significant advantages in terms of health compared to conventional ones, moreover very often organic agriculture is protected by surrounding it with traditional agriculture.

Furthermore, organic farming can present challenges in terms of production efficiency: often requires more land and water to produce the same amount of food than conventional agriculture and even more than GMO agriculture, potentially leading to a greater environmental impact. The reduced yield per hectare implies a greater need for space, which could result in additional pressure on deforestation and loss of natural habitats. Aspects raise complex questions about real impact of organic farming and the balance between health benefits and environmental implications.

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Written by Gennaro Marchesi
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