Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni met with Italian farmers’ groups on Friday after weeks of nationwide demonstrations and promised to restore limited tax breaks.
Farmers have staged small-scale protests from Sicily to Turin to address a range of concerns, including fuel costs and the impact of European Union environmental regulations aimed at combating climate change. The government is demanding that these measures are having a negative impact on the lives of farmers.
Early Friday morning, the protests reached central Rome, where tractors, including one green, one white and one red, the Italian flag, took a symbolic drive past the Colosseum.
Meloni, who took over as head of the nationalist government in October 2022, expressed sympathy for farmers and criticized the EU’s “ideological” rules.
She said the government had already acted to support the industry, diverting an additional 3 billion euros ($3.2 billion) from Italy’s share of the EU’s post-coronavirus recovery fund, bringing the total to 8 billion euros. It is said that it goes up to USD.
At a roundtable on Friday with ministers and agricultural organizations, including representatives of protesters, she agreed to extend the income tax exemption for farmers that has been in place since 2017.
However, the extension is limited to low-income earners.
The government had originally planned to suspend the exemption completely. Meloni told the meeting that this was “unfair and gives preferential treatment to large companies in particular.”
This limited exemption will help “the most vulnerable,” officials said.
The tractor that arrived in Rome on Friday was part of a group of more than 300 vehicles parked on the capital’s northern outskirts for several days, waiting for permission to enter the city.
“We are facing serious difficulties due to EU policies,” Elia Fornai, a 26-year-old farmer from Tuscany, told AFP at the camp. At the camp, visiting journalists were treated to barbecued local ingredients.
“We have no desire to protest. We want to return home as soon as possible, but we have new programs in place for a better future in agriculture.”
Italian farmers are not a homogeneous group. They have no clear leader.
But many are unhappy with food imports from outside the EU, which are not subject to the same regulations, and are calling for tax breaks, including on fuel.
The EU has pledged to become carbon neutral by 2050. Getting there will require massive adaptation by consumers and industry, including agriculture, which produces 11 percent of the region’s global warming emissions.
With input from AFP.
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Published date: February 9, 2024 23:17:15 IST