Just over six months have passed since the first earthquake on August 24 which, besides damaging people and properties, over the course of these months has caused an animal massacre, with over 10,000 animals who have died, have been wounded, have got sick or have been aborted due to the conjoined effect of earthquakes and bad weather. Yes, it was not only the earthquake but also a particularly adverse weather that forced animal to stay out in the cold due to stables and shelters being unfit for use. 9 out of 10 animals (85%) cannot be hosted in the promised temporary stables and farmers do not know where to put their cows, pigs and sheep who have survived.
The earthquake and the snow both have caused general instability in the territory, with acres of fertile farming land that have collapsed and cannot be cultivated, while the interruption of viability hits trade of salvaged production. If we add this to the fact that milk production dropped by 30% due to the stress caused by cold and fear of earthquakes, we can picture a critical situation to say the least.
Frustration and sense of abandonment: these are the most common sentiments spread amongst the farmers who yesterday gathered in the capital to protest. President of the Senate, Pietro Grasso, was there to welcome them, and he received a delegation of agricultural entrepreneurs in Palazzo Madama, comoing from the middle Italy regions hit by the recent earthquakes. The situation is truly serious, on the brink of crisis, as illustrated by Roberto Moncalvo, president of Coldiretti and leader of a delegation of the association. “The earthquake” – said Moncalvo” – “ hit a territory which economy is based for the most part on agriculture, and now we have to actually help the territory if we don’t want to give up to abandonment and depopulation”.
#betrayedstables by a frustrating bureaucracy
The word we hear the most is “unbearable”. Everything has become unbearable. Months have passed since the events that trampled this sector and stil the barns have no suitable tools to continue a work which as a matter of fact has never stopped, amid every possible difficulties. Even those caused by a frustrating bureaucracy.
In rural areas stricken by the earthquake we can count direct and indirect damages for a total of 2.3 billion euros, taking into account roads and infrastructures, rural houses, stables, barns, warehouses also processing facilities, resale points, agricultural machines, processing machines and dead and wounded animals, to which we have to add losses deriving from the collapse of milk production and cultivations and from negative effects on the trade, decrease of tourist and inhabitants inflow. This is data contained in the Coldiretti report that goes by the caustic title, #betrayedstables, distributed in Montecitorio Square.
There are a total of 25,000 farms in the 131 municipalities hit by the earthquake in Lazio, Marche, Umbria and Abruzzo; 292,000 ha of land used primarily as arable land, grazes and pastures for companies, most of which are family-run businesses (96.5%). Coldiretti data is based on the last Istat survey. There is a significant presence of breeding farms with almost 65,000 cattle units, 40,000 sheep and over 11,000 pigs; there is also a thriving agro-industrial production with cheesemakers, cured meat factories and olive oil mills where world renowned delicacies are produced. A rich and varied reality, a proud Italian reality that produces excellence, however it has been heavily limited and damaged by collapsed stables, barns and cheese factories and the animal slaughter.
This exasperation brought hundreds of farmers to protest and also bring along some of the survived sheep in Montecitorio Square. Some of the many signs exposed by the farmers read: “I lost my animals, but not my dignity”, “Less talk, more stables”, “AAA normality wanted”, “Bureaucracy kills more than the earthquake” and “the best Italy deserves justice.” There was also a big dining table laden with local products salvaged from the rubble, from Castelluccio lentils to Amatrice and Farinola Pecorino cheese, and much more, and all these products risk to disappear due to the difficult situation of local market, the tourist crisis, the forced migration and the delay in construction of temporary housing.
Adding insult to injury
As we all know, when it rains, it pours. A few days ago, the members of a milk production Association in Macerata received a letter that read: “We inform the members who produce sheep milk that the board of directors, during the February 7 meeting, decided that from January 1, 2017 new price for sheep milk will be 0.€80 per liter.” That is adding insult to injury. In fact, the association used to pay €0.93 per liter; €13 cents less that, during these times where they have no stables, literally put them on their knees.
Everything is going well according to the government…
In the meantime, it seems that things are moving on for the payment of €34 million of extraordinary aids for lost income to the farmers of the areas hit by the earthquake, according to a statement by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry Policies. The Ministry explained that the resources allocated by the country, the European Union and by the regions of Lazio, Marche, Umbria and Abruzzo call for premiums for each animal owned by the companies before the earthquake amounting to €400 for each cattle unit, €60 for sheep and goats and €20 for swine.
Aids are supplied by Agea through a simplified procedure, reducing bureaucracy to zero. In fact, the request for the AIDS is precompiled and the farmer must verify that the number of animals corresponds (cows and buffaloes, sheep and goats and swine) to the number registered in SIAN and already integrated with the data provided by the Livestock Register – National Databank. Operations carried out at the center for agriculture assistance (CAA) will be free of charge for the companies thanks to agricultural Associations who promised to make the service freely available. Each week, Agea expects to emit a payment decree for requests received with an early 75% tranche of premium owned to each company, to be paid within the next 60 days.
Mipaaf states that these payments will be added to those distributed by Agea up to today, especially to the €90 million in aids directed, by unified demand 2016, to 33,000 companies and around €70 million of European funds for rural development, of which 50 million have been paid last week, earlier than expected thanks to the agreement between Minister Maurizio Martina and EU Commissioner Phil Hogan. The Ministry continues in its efforts to help agricultural companies and breeding companies of the earthquake-stricken areas in order to guarantee production continuity and provide liquidity to companies during this emergency phase.
In the meantime, it looks like institutions still have a long road ahead if they want to keep their promises, also according to the authoritative voice of Radio Vaticana. Last March 1, as we can see on the radio’s web portal, Augusto Batassa, a farmer from Castelsantangelo sul Nera, stated that some farmers managed to make it through the winter, but they made it without any aids from the Government or the Regions. Only 30 tensile structure have been built, and they are all but insufficient to house the cattle.
Action of solidarity from the “normal” country
Among the many dark clouds we can still see some rays of light: in fact, in the last few months a bona fide action of solidarity came from every region of Italy. In Tuscany, the local Coldiretti Association upped the ante on the solidarity front. “During the last few months, the ‘rural solidarity’ pushed us to send trailers and housing containers in the areas hit by the earthquake, says Tulio Marcelli, President of Coldiretti Tuscany – then we also activated the sale of Solidarity Caciotta Cheese in every ‘Campagna Amica’ Marketplace of our region, and the Tuscany consumers reacted very positively to this action of solidarity. After that, thanks to the “give a bale” initiative, the Coldiretti trucks loaded with hay made their way towards Abruzzo and Marche. Now it’s time for the “solidarity cow milkers”. Two double-unit milking machines on rails will be shipped to the cattle farmers reported by our crisis unit at the national Coldiretti Association”.
“These areas” – as Antonio de Concilo, director of Coldiretti Tuscany, explained in a note – “are characterized by a relevant presence of breeding farms, with around 65,000 cattle, 40,000 sheep and over 11,000 pigs. Production has been heavily limited and damaged by collapsed stables, barns and cheese factories and the animal slaughter so we decided to ship this cow milking machines to our less fortunate colleagues, in order to give a small contribution that will hopefully be useful to safeguard one of the jewels of the extraordinary patrimony of our territories.”
But there are also smaller stories like that of 22-year-old farmer Alessio Piccoli from Lombardy, who put up a solidarity network, through social media, between agricultural companies, traders and private individuals which, in a short period of time managed to gather five tons of animal feed for farm animals and pets.
Or the story of several hundreds of kilograms of hay coming from Rome farmlands, thanks to the initiative coordinated by Massimiliano De Juliis, a counselor of the Municipio IX of the capital, which within a few days managed to buy 14 bales of hay, each weighing 300 kg, to be added to the around 1200 kg of animal feed given by Cerealicola 80 and Vinciguerra Mangimi, for the areas hit by the earthquake.