A large demon­stra­tion of farm­ers orga­nized by the newly estab­lished Orange Vests move­ment took place in Rome last week.

On February 14, olive grow­ers and other agri­cul­tural work­ers from all over Italy banded together to call upon the Italian gov­ern­ment to rapidly imple­ment “con­crete mea­sures and actions” for the Apulian and national olive oil sec­tor, which “was brought to its knees by last win­ter’s frost, the out­break of Xylella fas­tidiosa and polit­i­cal lax­ity.”

It was the vic­tory of a united peo­ple, of men and women who love their land and their work. Synergy won, olive grow­ers won.- Onofrio Spagnoletti Zeuli, Orange Vests spokesman

“On this day, we wanted to sym­bol­i­cally show our love for the land, invit­ing mem­bers of the par­lia­ment and min­is­ters to take their share of respon­si­bil­i­ties toward thou­sands of peo­ple, farm­ers and work­ers, who are fac­ing many unre­solved issues,” the spokesman for the Orange Vests move­ment, Onofrio Spagnoletti Zeuli, said.

The move­ment began in late December, when a group of Apulian olive grow­ers from dif­fer­ent asso­ci­a­tions orga­nized to protest the Italian government’s fail­ure to intro­duce a series of mea­sures in the national bud­get, which were deemed nec­es­sary to sup­port the agri­cul­tural sec­tor, and in a sub­se­quent decree that con­tained sim­pli­fy­ing pro­vi­sions for com­pa­nies.

According to the Orange Vests, the imme­di­ate need was for the recog­ni­tion of a state of emer­gency after the frosts of February 2018, tar­geted and deci­sive actions against Xylella fas­tidiosa in Puglia and the release of the resources of the Apulian rural devel­op­ment plan, which has been ham­pered by bureau­cratic issues.

“This move­ment was ini­ti­ated as a response to the inac­tion of the national and regional gov­ern­ments,” Spagnoletti Zeuli said. “Our pur­pose was to cre­ate a great peace­ful apo­lit­i­cal mobi­liza­tion of olive grow­ers and farm­ers, with no flag but the Italian tri­color. Similarly, we urge the polit­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tives to work together, inde­pen­dently of their party, and col­lab­o­rate with us, for the recov­ery of the sec­tor and the future of thou­sands of fam­i­lies.”

As early as January, the Orange Vests took to the streets in Bari and, a few days before the national rally, they had orga­nized events in Bitonto, Ruvo di Puglia, Corato, Andria, Bisceglie and Terlizzi.

The protest of the Apulian farm­ers’ move­ment cul­mi­nated in Rome, where they were joined by col­leagues from other Italian regions, includ­ing mem­bers of the Associazione fran­toiani di Puglia (Association of Apulian Millers), Cia (Italian Farmers Confederation), Confagricoltura, Confocooperative, Copagri, Italia olivi­cola, Legacoop, Movimento nazionale agri­coltura (National Agriculture Movement), Unapol, and Liberi agri­coltori (Free Farmers).

Also, regional sec­tions of trade unions CGIL, CISL, and UIL, the National Association of Italian Municipalities, the Order of Agronomists, and the Regional Organization of Land Surveyors attended the event wear­ing an orange jacket.

The orga­nizer of the demon­stra­tion empha­sized how “the adhe­sion of the munic­i­pal­i­ties and the work­ers’ unions shows that the prob­lem does not only con­cern the olive oil sec­tor and the agri­cul­ture of Puglia, but the whole eco­nomic, pro­duc­tive and social sys­tem of the region, and there­fore of the coun­try.”

“We want to draw atten­tion to var­i­ous points that con­sti­tute cru­cial issues for us as qual­ity pro­duc­ers,” Elia Pellegrino, an olive grower and mas­ter miller from Andria, said. “Not only prob­lems due to frosts and Xylella but also mat­ters relat­ing to land improve­ment con­sor­tia, fraud, the EU Common Agricultural Policy, as well as the revis­it­ing of the law against gang-mas­ter prac­tices, should be at the heart of the national polit­i­cal agenda.”

“We are here, today, to give a mes­sage of dig­nity and hope in the future for the Apulian and Italian olive oil sec­tor,” the Apulian farmer added.

At the end of the demon­stra­tion, which was attended by thou­sands of peo­ple, the orga­niz­ers said they were sat­is­fied with the results that they obtained.

“Minister of Agriculture Gian Marco Centinaio, Undersecretary Alessandra Pesce and all the gov­ern­ment have made a strong com­mit­ment, and now we look for­ward to the two emer­gency decrees on Xylella and the frost emer­gency,” Spagnoletti Zeuli said. “We are wait­ing for the Minister, who will come to Puglia on February 26, and the first con­crete results.”

“The Minister agreed with our action pro­gram, and he thanked us for the impor­tant con­tri­bu­tion to the Xylella decree approved in the State-Regions con­fer­ence, since the mea­sures for affected farms and mills that we requested have been included,” the spokesman added. “For the frosts, our pro­posal of a decree law went through, and with respect to the employ­ment cri­sis due to work­ing days lost, by February 26, an inter-min­is­te­r­ial table con­fer­ence will be con­vened at the Ministry of Economic Development, while Undersecretary Pesce is already work­ing for the new national olive grow­ing strate­gic plan.”

“It was the vic­tory of a united peo­ple, of men and women who love their land and their work,” Spagnoletti Zeuli con­tin­ued. “Synergy won, olive grow­ers won.”




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