Chapter 13

 Fields hold the answers to the latest challenges 

Agriculture plays a major role in the sustainability of Veneto's economics, culture, food, territory and environment.
Before we look at the relationship between agriculture and sustainability in Veneto, we will look at its economy and production.
It is a difficult moment for Italy's agriculture. Many areas are at risk due to hydrogeological instability because the land has been neglected and abandoned, especially in disadvantaged areas such as the hills and the mountains. Italy's agricultural revenue (Note 1) fell by 3.3% between 2009 and 2010, yet it rose by more than 12% in EU27. This is a sign of the difficulties Italian agriculture is undergoing; despite its vast potential, it continues to be affected by volatile prices, market instability and economic efforts that have not yet been converted into value added on production.

13.1 Agriculture: an overview

(Note 2) In 2010, Veneto's agricultural production made a significant recovery in terms of value, after an 8.4% fall in overall turnover in 2009. It is estimated that in 2010 agricultural production reached 4.8 billion euro, an annual growth of about 7%.
This recovery was not due to increased production, but to a major comeback in the prices of many agricultural products that had plummeted in 2009. A major contribution was made by horticultural crops, as their turnover at current prices is estimated to have increased by 21%; permanent crops, however, increased by only 9%, and animal husbandry remained stable at 1%.
Holdings, employment and the agriculture labour market
In recent years, the number of agricultural holdings and the number of food businesses have gone in opposite directions. The number of active agricultural holdings in the Business Register at Veneto's Chambers of Commerce in 2010 continued the negative trend of recent decades as numbers fell by 2.4% on 2009, more than the national average (-2%). The number of holdings fell to just over 76,000 units, mainly affecting individual holdings (66,278 units, -3.6%), the most common type, which account for about 87% of the regional total. The number of corporations, however, rose (840 active holdings, +8%) as did partnerships (8,439, +2,5%); other types of agricultural businesses (cooperatives, consortiums, etc.) were fairly stable at 518 (-0.4%). This drop affected all of the provinces, but Venezia (-4.2%), Rovigo (-3.6%) and Padova (-3.1%) were hit particularly hard. Verona is the leading province in Veneto with more than 17,000 active farm holdings (23.3% of the regional total).
A survey by Italy's National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT) has revealed that employment figures in Veneto's agriculture industry increased by 13% between 2009 and 2010, higher than both the national average (+1.9%) and the other regions in North East Italy (+5.3%).
The figures that employers are required to give authorities when working relationships are started, converted or ended provide an up-to-date picture of Veneto's agriculture labour market.
The most common contracts are employee contracts, which account for more than 98% of employment; these contracts include fixed-term contracts, which witnessed a major increase between 2008 and 2010. According to Italy's National Collective Labour Agreement (CCNL) for agriculture and floriculture, labourers may be employed on a fixed-term contract to carry out short-term, seasonal or temporary work or to replace absent workers who have the right to retain their job. They may also be employed to carry out a number of seasonal jobs, or for several work phases over the year, with a minimum guarantee of 100-plus days in the 12 months from the start date. Employment may also be for 180-plus days of actual labour to be carried out on a single continuative employment contract. In brief, the employment of agricultural labourers on fixed-term contracts is governed by work with a time limit and the performance of certain jobs. 
Other forms of employment, however, suffered a fall during the same three-year period; the only exception is the "other employees" category, which rose by more than five times. As regards length of employment, almost all of the contracts end within one year. Less than 1% of fixed-term contracts last for more than one year. (Figure 13.1.1)
The distribution of temporary agricultural labour is linked with the seasons and local specialisations. Figures from Veneto's Labour Information System (SILV) (Note 3) for monthly agricultural employment between 2008 and 2010 reveal peaks between April and May for certain types of fruit and vegetables, but the main spikes are in September when the grape harvest takes place.
Seasonal work in Veneto goes beyond these two periods, although this is when most of the work is done. Equally important operations include trimming, harvest of winter vegetables, greenhouse work and floriculture cycles.
Agricultural labourers are mainly men, but women also account for one third of labourers, mainly in harvesting. Foreign workers make up more than 60% of the labour force. More than half of labourers are aged between 30 to 54 years old. (Figure 13.1.2)
Verona plays a major role in the region's agriculture industry employment, as more than 50% of the region's labourers are employed here, with figures rising between 2009 and 2010. Rovigo ranks second with just over 10% and its employment figures continue to rise. There were also increases in Belluno, Padova and Venezia, but drops in Vicenza and Treviso. Although Treviso saw a fall in the number of newly employed labourers, presumably because much of its grape-harvesting is increasingly done by machinery, it still ranks third in terms of overall numbers. (Figure 13.1.3)
The industry crisis also affects the categories of labourer employed. Between 2008 and 2010, there was a fall in the employment of skilled labour and a rise in unskilled labour, i.e. manual, which accounted for three quarters of employment in 2010.
Foreign workers come mainly from the EU's nearby East European states, especially Romania and Poland. Workers from EU Member States are free to move around Europe and are not subject to particular ties, so labour is easy to find, even for brief seasonal periods, especially when there is little seasonal work in their home countries. During harvest time, private companies and cooperatives find labourers abroad and bring them to Italy. Once these workers are in Italy, they stay on the employer's premises or with other foreign labourers who have worked in Italy for some time. 
The gender of the agricultural workers in 2010 depended on their nationality and there were major differences from country to country. Men account for 95% of Indian labourers, 90% of Moroccan labourers and 85% of Senegalese labourers; while women make up 71% of Serbian and Montenegrin labourers, 68% of Chinese labourers, and 60% of Slovak labourers. (Figure 13.1.4)
Italy has recently introduced a new form of temporary employment for certain categories of workers, known as prestazioni occasionali di tipo accessorio rese da particolari soggetti. Employers purchase 10 euro work vouchers, which enable them to pay employees their wages, as well as their social security (INPS) and their workplace insurance (INAIL). During the trial period between 2008 and 2009, these work vouchers were successful, and they continue to be so today.
According to Italy's National Social Security Institute (INPS), Veneto's employers purchased more than one million of these vouchers, making the region Italy's leader in this area. A total of 54% of these one million vouchers were used in the agriculture industry, making Veneto Italy's leading region in agriculture industry vouchers. (Figure 13.1.5) and (Figure 13.1.6)
Treviso is Veneto's leading province for the purchase of vouchers in the agriculture industry; Verona is a close second. These two provinces rank so highly because they are Veneto's main agricultural areas: Treviso on account of its wine-growing and Verona on account of its fruit and vegetables, each of which require manual labour for certain parts of the growing cycle. January is also an important month, in addition to the other months already mentioned. A high number of people were taken on at the beginning of the year, not so much for agricultural work itself, but because this is when the administration of seasonal workers begins.

Women in the agriculture industry

Over the last few years, women have begun to play an increasingly important role in the agriculture industry, taking on positions as managers rather than as labourers. Indeed, a wave of innovation has hit the industry as agricultural holdings have taken an increasingly multi-functional direction. As a result, there has been a spread of closely related activities, including food processing, agrotourism, as well as social and educational activities, all of which have been spearheaded by women.
One quarter of Veneto's agricultural employees are women, a figure that is higher than the national average of around 20%. Despite this high proportion of women in the agriculture industry, the number of women it employs is still very low, as it accounts for only 2% of overall female employment. Furthermore the number of women employed in agriculture has fallen since 2004; however, although the number of employees has fallen, the number of women running an agricultural holding has increased. This reveals that women's role in agriculture has shifted from mainly manual work to positions at the top of a business, which often employs solely women. (Figure 13.1.7)
In Veneto, the number of agricultural holdings set up by women is, however, still lower than the national average. The figures lose even more of their gloss when we consider the surface area and revenue of these holdings: the majority of agricultural holdings run by women in Veneto are small affairs dealing mainly with cereals and horticulture; this is in contrast to the national average, which is mainly accounted for by fruit farms. Management of arable farms is less time-consuming, which may explain the high number of women involved, whereas horticulture farms tend to provide higher revenues and employment.
The majority of women running an agricultural holding are over 50 years old; however a large slice is also represented by women aged between 30 and 50. ISTAT's figures for 2007 are consistent with employment trends in the primary sector: Veneto's number of young women entrepreneurs out of the number of young entrepreneurs (19.3%) is lower than the national average (26.7%).
We therefore need to provide women with further encouragement so that they enter the agriculture industry; this can be achieved by giving them a more important role and by recognising their fundamental and irreplaceable importance.
Area and production
Veneto has approximately 835,000 hectares of Utilised Agricultural Area (UAA): 33% is covered by corn, which the most extensively planted crop in Veneto.
Forage crops also account for a high percentage (24% UAA); both these crops and corn provide fodder for Veneto's animal husbandry industry. Bread wheat (11%) and soya (8%) also account for a major part of Veneto's crops; grapes are also widespread (9%), whereas horticultural crops (4%) and fruit growing (3%)tend to be concentrated in highly specialised areas. 
If we look at crops and animal husbandry in production value terms, however, figures change radically: horticultural crops account for the largest share (14%), then come wine-growing (10%), cereals (9%), industrial crops (6%) and fruit-growing (5%).  Animal husbandry makes up around 40% of the total production value of Veneto's agriculture industry; the main categories are poultry (12%), meat cattle (9%), dairy cattle (8%) and swine (3%).  (Table 13.1.1)

Cereals and industrial crops

In 2010, the production of the main cereal crops was similar to figures for 2009. However they benefitted from a substantial increase in average prices on the region's main goods exchanges: corn rose by 30%, bread wheat by 25%, and barley by 32%. There were falls, however, in the prices of durum wheat (11%) and rice (24%).
There was also a slight fall in corn UAA (1%), now estimated at 276,000 hectares, which produces more than 2.2 million tonnes of corn, a fall of 2%. A sharper fall was witnessed in bread wheat UAA, now estimated at 92,000 hectares, down 8%. There was, however, an increase in yield (5%); this contained the fall in production to 3% and enabled 545,000 tonnes of bread wheat to be grown. Durum wheat experienced a major rise in UAA, estimated at 6%; this was matched by an increase in yield, which enabled production to reach almost 70,000 tonnes (+9%). Rice also increased its UAA considerably to 4,100 hectares, up 29%; yield also rose (22,700 tonnes, up 22%), but as mentioned above, it was penalised by a fall in price.
There were also fairly positive results for industrial crops, except for sugar beet. Soya also experienced an increase in production (231,500 tonnes, up 4%), due to an increase in UAA to 70,500 ha, (+15%); it also benefitted from a favourable international market and average annual price (340 euro/t), an increase of 5% on 2009. It was also a good year for tobacco, which saw an increase in UAA to 8,500 ha, (+4%), yield (+21%) and end production, estimated at around 32,800 tonnes (+25%). Sugar beet, however, saw a fall in its UAA to 14,500 ha (-7%), yield (-7%) and end production (-14%). As regards energy crops, sunflowers underwent a drop in UAA and production (around -7%), while there was a further increase in the UAA of rape-seed (+12%).

Fruit and vegetables

In 2010, Veneto witnessed a further drop in vegetable UAA, which fell to around 32,600 hectares (-1%). This fall affected vegetables produced in greenhouses, with UAA dropping to about 3,600 hectares, and in the open-air, UAA down to 25,500 hectares; tuber crop UAA experienced a slightly sharper fall to 3,500 hectares, down 2%. The production value of the vegetable industry, however, rose (approx. +10%) and it is estimated that the overall value is just under 700 million euro. This result was mainly due to an increase in prices and turnover, which were estimated at +54% for potatoes, +10% for radicchio and +10% for strawberries.
Some fruit crops also benefitted from rising prices in 2010, compensating for the disappointing results of the previous year: peaches and nectarines were up +48%, cherries by +14% and kiwis by +11%. Overall, Veneto's fruit production was within the norm, if not slightly higher than 2009; Italy and Europe, however, saw their production plummet.

Fourth Range Produce

Veneto is one of the many regions where fourth range produce is gaining in importance; indeed Veneto has a vast range of producers, including a number of major ones at national and European level.
Fourth Range produce is the name given to fruit and vegetables that are ready-to-use, i.e. produce that is fresh, washed, dried, cut and packaged in trays or plastic bags ready to be served, so that the consumer saves time in the kitchen, but still has high-quality food.
The term was coined in France a few years ago and comprises the following categories:
First Range: traditional fruit and vegetables;
Second Range: vegetable preserves;
Third Range: frozen vegetables;
Fourth Range: fresh, ready-prepared, additive-free vegetables;
Fifth range: pre-cooked, grilled, seared or steamed, vacuum-packed vegetables.
A survey was conducted by ISMEA (Italy's Food and Agricultural Produce Service Institute) and AC Nielsen between 2000 and 2004 in order to provide a rough idea as to how popular processed fruit and vegetables were. In 2004, they appeared on the tables of 98% of Italian homes, even though this figure is down -0.7% on 2000. In 2004, tinned tomatoes and beans were the most common processed foods, as they were in 2000. In third place were the vegetables in the Fourth and Fifth Range, which in 2000 were back in seventh place. Nowadays these vegetables are used by more than 50% of Italian families.
This positive trend continued in 2009 and 2010 when, according to ISMEA, Fourth Range produce were unaffected by the crisis and actually bucked the trend of the fruit and vegetable industry in general. Indeed, although fresh fruit and vegetables are continually being promoted to ensure a healthy, balanced diet, their sales fell by 1.8%; however, Fourth Range produce are the leading products purchased, up 7.9%, despite the processed product costing 5-6 times more than traditional fresh produce.
The demand for these ready-to-use products has been brought about by today's more frenetic lifestyles, a reduction in the amount of time dedicated to cooking, an increase in meals eaten outside the home, and the enticing packaging.
The most publicised benefit of Fourth Range is the saving in time, but it is not the only one. As they are easy to carry, they can be eaten anywhere. There is also a complete absence of waste as the product has already been peeled. There are also health benefits: home-made salads normally contain one type of salad for practical reasons, but ready-made ones often contain a variety of salad, which favours the consumption of anti-oxidants.


Veneto's 2010 harvest should be considered pretty much within the norm, and there was a slight increase in grape production on the previous year (+2%). The latest figures from the Schedario Viticolo Veneto, the region's wine-growing industry database, reveal that Veneto has more than 70,000 hectares of wine-growing UAA, also up slightly on 2009. 
Treviso accounts for 38% of Veneto's vineyards and Verona 35%; together they make up almost three quarters of the region's wine-growing area.
Veneto has confirmed its place at the head of Italy's regional rankings with the production of 8.2 million hectolitres of wine (+2%). We should also note the recently introduced changes to the regional geography of the Designations of Origin, as these have changed the quality categories of Veneto wine. This had a particular effect on the area producing Controlled Designation of Origin (DOC) Prosecco. There has been a major increase in the share of new European wine category Protected Designation of Origin (DOP), which combines the old Controlled Designation (DOC) and Controlled and Guaranteed Designation of Origin wine (DOCG) categories; DOP wine has risen from 36% to 42%, almost equalling figures for Typical Geographical Indication wine (IGT), which is now known as Protected Geographical Indication (IGP). The remaining 15% is table wine or varietal wine. (Figure 13.1.8)
In commercial terms, 2010 saw a major recovery of wine grape prices after two poor years in which prices nosedived by 15%-20% annually. Chamber of Commerce goods exchanges saw prices rise across the board, but there were differences between grape types and provinces. Treviso saw the price of its grapes rise by an average of 26.1%, Padova by 21.8%, Verona by 4.6% and Venezia by 3.7%. The overall average annual price for grapes for all Veneto provinces and grape types was 0.44 euro/kg, a 14% rise on 2009. 
Despite the economic crisis of recent years, the wine industry is the driving force behind the region's agriculture. Imported wine accounted for a minor quantity of purchases in 2010, with just fewer than 100 holdings making a turnover of about 17 million euro. Wine exports, however, confirm Veneto as Italy's leading region for international sales, with a turnover of almost 1.2 billion euro, about one third of the region's entire agricultural exports. (Figure 13.1.9)
Between 2005 and 2009, exports towards the main foreign markets rose constantly, and this growth still continues today despite the financial and economic crisis. Indeed the upward trend continued into 2010 when turnover reached 1,158 million euro, a 12.8% increase on the previous year. The three longest-standing destinations of both Italy's and Veneto's wine exports are Germany, the United States and the United Kingdom, although wine consumption in the first two countries has fallen in the last decade. This drop will probably lead to a reduction in the wine exports to all three countries in the long-term; it will, however, be more than compensated for by the opening of markets in emerging countries. This is certainly the case in Russia and Finland, which, despite standing only eleventh and twelfth in terms of quantity purchased, saw their consumption of Italian wine increase the most between 1991 and 2007. A similar trend also occurred in the north of Europe where an increase in wine consumption per capita led to an increase of wine exports to countries such as the Netherlands and Norway. (Figure 13.1.10)
Animal husbandry
Veneto's dairy industry continued to be resized in 2010 and it lost a further 3% of its holdings on the two-year period 2008-2009. Despite an increase in production per head, the falling number of holdings affected production quantities, which amounted to 11 million tonnes (-2%). The fall in production, however, did contain excess, as milk quotas subject to an additional levy dropped to around 61,000 tonnes, 85% lower than the previous year. The additional levy was, however, annulled by Italy's State Legal Advisory Service, because Italy had produced less than its quota. 
The turnover from the production of cattle milk is estimated at around 390 million euro in 2010, an increase due to the recovery of the farm-gate prices of raw milk in the second half of the year. The average annual price stood at between 40 and 42 euro/100 litres VAT included (+8% on 2009).
Veneto's milk was mainly used to produce DOP cheese: Grana Padano (Veneto produces 13.5% of the national total, i.e. 576,000 wheels), Asiago (around 1,700,000 wheels), Montasio (350,000 wheels) and Piave (345,000 wheels). (Figure 13.1.11)
The production value of beef cattle is estimated at around 450 million euro for a total of 210,000 tonnes in 2010. There was a slight fall in turnover on 2009 due to a drop in the price of meat animals, down 3%-4%. The industry is in difficulty on account of the increasing costs of fodder, which risk wiping out breeders' income; this is especially true of smaller breeders, which have less chance to introduce scale economies. Veneto stands out for its production of veal calves: the main breeds are French, such as Charolaise and Limousine, which are known for the quantity and quality of their meat; they rear especially well on Veneto's abundant corn yield. According to figures from the National Livestock Database (BDN) in Teramo, 622,000 live animals were imported into Veneto in 2010, the majority of which were for fattening; these figures witnessed a 2.5% fall on the previous year. France was the origin of 404,000 animals (+3.5%), Poland 89,000 (-15%), Ireland 31,000 (+29%) and Austria, Romania and Germania about 20,000 overall. (Table 13.1.2)
Veneto has another two animal husbandry industries that play a major role at national level: poultry and rabbit. In 2010 poultry production continued its increase on previous years and exceeded a total of 500,000 tonnes (+4%); its turnover, however, fell slightly to 700 million euro (-3%) due to a drop in the price of meat animals; egg production is estimated at around 2 billion units for a turnover of approximately 175 million euro. Verona accounts for almost half of Veneto's poultry production. (Table 13.1.3)
Veneto produces 38% of Italy's rabbit meat. There are more than 500 closed-cycle professional breeders, mainly in the province of Treviso, which bred around 20 million rabbits in 2010 for an estimated turnover of 82 million euro; this was a 4.5% drop on 2009 due to falling market prices. There is another side to this industry made up of a large number of countryside rabbit breeders; although it is difficult to calculate their production figures exactly, they cannot completely overlooked.
Pig breeding in Veneto concentrates on heavy swine that will be used for the production of DOP products. In recent years, Veneto's DOP production has remained fairly constant: approximately 650,000 animals slaughtered annually (8% of the national total).
Sea and lagoon fishing
For the first six months of 2010, Veneto's estimated production fell on the same period of 2009: more than 17% in quantity and 26% in value. Average price also fell on 2009 (approx. -10%). The quantity of produce taken to Veneto's six fish markets also fell in 2010 (-6.7%), but its value remained stable. Caorle was the market that experienced the sharpest dip as its values fell below 40%; Rovigo's markets recorded falls in terms of quantity, and Venezia was the only one to record a positive trend. The fall may partly be due to a fishing strike in June 2010 in protest against EU measures for bottom trawlers. (Table 13.1.4)
The total amount of produce sold at Veneto's fish markets was 20,888 tonnes (-11% on 2009) for a value of 49 million euro, which represent 66% and 42% of the total sold respectively. Fish market produce does not normally take into account some fish species such as molluscs, which pass through purification and/or authorised shipping centres. Sea clam, giant clam and razor clam fishing is also excluded; in 2010, these categories accounted for 2,223 tonnes, 25% down on 2009 and 53% on 2008. The sea clam crisis is the main factor in this fall; the stress on this resource and its impoverishment, the reasons for which are unclear, has brought business to a halt and seen production fall by 74% since 2008.
The negative trend in Veneto's fishing fleet also continued in 2010 and at a much faster rate than in 2009. In 2010 Veneto had 760 boats in the European Union Fleet Register, 23 fewer than in 2009. In 2010 there were 2,996 active fishing and aquaculture businesses in Veneto, a slight fall (-1.6%) on the previous year. Fishing businesses were stable, but fish breeders fell by 4.4%.
In 2010, Veneto imported 254.9 million euro of fishing and aquaculture produce; its exports, however, reached 56.2 million euro, a negative trade balance of 198.7 million euro. Imports went up by 16.6% on the same period of the previous year, as did exports, up 21.9%. According to ISTAT, in value terms, Veneto accounts for 26% of Italy's fish imports and 27% of its fish exports. (Table 13.1.5)

Figure 13.1.1

Temporary labour in agriculture: employment contracts by length. Veneto - Year 2010

Figure 13.1.2

Temporary labour in agriculture: percentage of employment distribution by gender, nationality and age Veneto - Year 2010

Figure 13.1.3

Temporary labour in agriculture: employment by province. Veneto - Year 2009 and 2009/04 % variation

Figure 13.1.4

Temporary labour in agriculture: employment by nationality. Veneto - Year 2010

Figure 13.1.5

Vouchers purchased by region. Italy - Years 2008-2010

Figure 13.1.6

Vouchers purchased by province. Veneto - Year 2010

Figure 13.1.7

Women employed in agriculture. Veneto - Year 2009 and 2009/04 % variation

Table 13.1.1

Production at base prices (000 euro) of main agricultural produce. Veneto - Year 2010

Figure 13.1.8

Wine production (thousands of hl). Veneto. Year 2010 and 2010/09 % var.

Figure 13.1.9

Wine exports: % share by region. Italy - Year 2010

Figure 13.1.10

Wine exports: variation over time of consumption per capita. Veneto

Figure 13.1.11

Corrected milk sales by campaign (t) and number of holdings

Table 13.1.2

Number of cattle in Veneto on 31-12-2010

Table 13.1.3

Poultry slaughtered by breed (weight in kg)

Table 13.1.4

Produce sold at Veneto's fish markets - Year 2010

Table 13.1.5

Trade balance of fishing and aquaculture produce. Veneto - Year 2010 and 2010/09 % variation

13.2 Agriculture: sustaining the population, environment and future

It is undeniable that agriculture has a major effect on the resources of an area and its environment; it shapes the landscape, culture and history. It uses water and occupies plains, hills and valleys, but it can also protect them, sustain the local population and hand down traditions and practices that might otherwise be lost.
According to Eurostat's environment figures, in 2008 (the last year available) agriculture was responsible for 9.6% of the EU27 total and 6.6% of Italy's greenhouse gas emissions (equivalent CO2), a trend that has been constant in recent years. Agriculture's environmental impact is also due to its use of fertilisers and phytosanitary products in farming and to its animal farms, where impact is calculated in Livestock Units (LSU) (Note 4).
Agriculture has a major effect on Veneto and it is down to its agricultural holdings to protect and sustain the industry, without affecting its revenue and productivity.
Veneto's agriculture has great potential for an aware and sustainable use of its soil and resources, a feature that we will investigate more closely later in this chapter.
Agriculture and Environment


On the one hand, in 2009, Italy's use of agricultural fertilisers fell by 10% on the previous year; this trend started several years ago and figures now stand at around 44 million tonnes. On the other, the fertilisers allowed by organic farming have increased by 4.4%; this trend has also been underway for several years and figures now stand at more than 11.5 million tonnes. (Figure 13.2.1)
These figures suggest that EU programmes in support of eco-compatible and organic farming are on the increase; these trends can also be seen in Veneto, even though it is one of the regions that makes most use of fertilisers on account of its intensive farming. Although Veneto witnessed an increase in the total use of fertilisers in the last year for which figures are available (+6.8%), there was a fall of almost 25% in the use of fertilisers and a 77% leap in the use of amendments. Indeed both amendments and correctors have a lower nutrient content, which means they can be used in higher doses; they increase and maintain the soil's organic fertility and are thus environmentally friendly. (Figure 13.2.2)
The quality of the nutritional elements in fertilisers is also evolving: both Veneto and Italy have reduced the surface area that is fertilised with phosphorous, nitrogen and potassium and increased the use of organic fertilisers.  (Figure 13.2.3)

Phytosanitary products

Phytosanitary products restore the active substances in the soil that defend produce from harmful organisms; they promote or regulate the growing cycle, conserve produce, kill undesirable plants and stop them growing back.
As with fertilisers, European policy is to reduce the amount distributed, a trend that both Veneto and Italy are following. (Figure 13.2.4)
Indeed, although Veneto is one of the regions that makes most use of these substances per UAA on account of its specialisation in corn, wheat and grapes, it has in recent years slashed its use of active principles per hectare of UAA. (Figure 13.2.5)

The impact of animal husbandry

Livestock Units (LSU) were created to measure the stress to which an area is subjected by the animal husbandry industry. The value remained fairly constant in Italy between 2002 and 2008, falling slightly from 9.96 to 9.89 million cattle.
The animal husbandry industry has a different impact from region to region, ranging from more than 6 million LSU in the North to around 1 million LSU in the Centre. (Figure 13.2.6)
The density of the animal husbandry industry is calculated by dividing the total LSU by the surface area: in Italy this density is about 33 LSU per km2.  Lombardia is the Italian region with the highest density (112 LSU per km2) and together with another five regions it ranks above the national average: Veneto (54 LSU per km2), Emilia Romagna (48 LSU per km2), Piemonte (39 LSU per km2), Campania and Sardegna (36 LSU per km2). (Figure 13.2.7)
If we look at the variations in LSU during the aforementioned period, some regions, ones on which animal husbandry already has a high impact, have undergone an additional increase in density. Campania rose from 31 to 36 LSU per km2 (an increase of more than 15%). Sardegna and Piemonte, on the other hand, fell by more than 3%.
Over the last 6 years Veneto has also fallen slightly (-1.7%).
(Note 5) The production of renewable energy from agricultural and forestry waste brings benefits when this energy is produced in accordance with the environmental sustainability criteria proposed by the European Commission in its Biomass Action Plan. This result needs to be achieved by safeguarding food security; by observing good agricultural practices; by collecting biomass locally without increasing environmental pressure on the soil and water resources; and by respecting the biodiversity of the forests and farmland.

The energy-wood supply chain 

Energy supplied by agriculture, forests, Trees Outside Forests (TOF) (hedgerows, farmland, riverbanks, floodplains, permanent cropland) are growing in economic importance on account of the demand for eco-sustainable energy produced by wood biomass fuel, crops, agricultural by-products or waste. This demand could have a positive effect on Veneto's agro-forestry system, which has great potential for growth and development in all of its provinces.
Veneto has major potential in terms of the production and use of wood chip and firewood. According to a 2008 census, Veneto has around 20 chippers of various sizes; they have an annual production capacity of about 87,100 tonnes. If we compare figures from a range of sources (Chambers of Commerce, ISTAT, etc.), it emerges that two thirds of Veneto's wood chip is sold outside the region, but 89% of firewood is sold within the region. At present, the region's forest, wood and energy system is not structured enough to meet the growing demand for this type of fuel. It has been estimated that in 2008 Veneto consumed 2 million tonnes of wood in more than 570,000 non-central heating devices. Overall, Veneto, like Italy, is a major importer of wood chip and firewood (Note 6). Another major source of wood biomass is the Trees Outside of Forests (TOF) sector. It is also estimated that Veneto produces an annual average of more than 26,000 tonnes of fresh biomass with its Short Rotation Forestry (SRF).


In Italy, Veneto ranks fourth after Emilia Romagna, Lombardia and Piemonte for its use of biogas technology. Veneto currently has 85 plants, 55 of which mainly get their biomass from manure and specific crops, as well as food and agricultural waste and by-products. Of the 55 plants linked to the agriculture industry, 24 are running and produce electricity for the grid, while the other 31 are being built or are not producing, although they have been given authorisation. There was an overall increase in new plants, either built or planned, which were promoted by incentives; in 2010, there were 42 applications for the preliminary stages. (Figure 13.2.8) and (Figure 13.2.9)
The main plant types are small and medium size with an installed power between 0.5 and 0.99 MW (85% of the plants built with incentives in 2010); they are more suited to farm holdings and animal husbandry businesses and their digesters can be fuelled by biomass, animal manure or a combination of the two. A total of 74% of the plants are fuelled by this combination, while an extremely low percentage produce energy from manure alone, because it has a lower energy coefficient than biomass. (Figure 13.2.10)
Biogas is mainly used to produce electricity; between 2007 and 2010, net electricity production reached about 348,000 MWh/year; very little biogas was used to produce heat, probably because there were no incentives. Only 35% of a potential of 420,000 MWh/year of heat energy is used.
The production of biogas may also boost the development of technology that converts biogas into biomethane (BioCH4) as a biofuel for vehicles.


Veneto maintains its second place behind Lombardia in terms of biodiesel production capacity, accounting for 19% of the national total. The majority of Italy's plants are located on the Pianura padana (11 out of 19 plants are in North Italy; 3 are in Veneto) where the majority of oil crops are grown. In 2008 Veneto's UAA of energy crops for the production of biodiesel was equal to 6,560 hectares and the potential production capacity of its plants was about 530,000 tonnes per year. However, it is estimated that in 2009 no more than 68,000 tonnes were produced.

Pure Vegetable Oil (PVO)

In 2010, Veneto's rapeseed UAA reached 6,250 hectares; the average yield was about 2.8 tonnes/ha for an overall production of about 17,500 tonnes. It is estimated that the total potential production for rapeseed vegetable oil in Veneto stands at around 6,000 tonnes per year. The regional government's farming organisation, Veneto Agricoltura, has carried out region-wide experiments that have provided a detailed report on the technical and economic factors required to set up sustainable small-scale supply chains for the production of Pure Vegetable Oil (PVO) as a biofuel to power tractors and motor vehicles. Although PVO is still fairly under-developed as a vehicle fuel, it is commonplace in static motors that produce thermal and electrical energy (co-generators). Figures for 2009, the latest, show that Veneto uses PVO in 11 plants, for an installed power of 12.08 MW. All of Veneto's liquid fuel plants are powered by PVO that is made up of imported raw palm oil. It is estimated that PVO consumption stood at around 13,000 tonnes in 2009.

The Photovoltaic Industry

Photovoltaic energy (also known as solar power) is still is a major power source, even though state incentives through Italy's Conto Energia law have been reduced. Figures from Veneto's Town-planning and Landscape Directorate reveal that in 2010 the applications for a Single Authorisation, designed as a one-stop shop for solar panel permits, continued to rise, quadrupling on 2009. This upward trend continued into the first quarter of 2011 and applications doubled on the same period 2010. (Figure 13.2.11)
The majority of these plants are connected to the farming industry and they have a rated power between 200 kW and 1 MW. Plants using more than 1 MW are mainly used by large international companies; even though they are not covered by farming industry incentives, they still account for one quarter of plants. Plants using less than 200 kW account for only 12%; this figure, however, is expected to increase if we consider that installation of home and some ground systems only require local council and not regional government permission. (Figure 13.2.12)
Over the last year, the photovoltaic industry in the province of Rovigo has soared; the provinces of Padova, Venezia and Verona have also risen, but cannot compare with the boom in Rovigo.
Although the industry is subject to constant criticism and increasingly restrictive laws, applications to install PV systems continue to flood in day by day. (Figure 13.2.13)
Organic farming
The main aim of organic farming is to be environmentally-friendly, observe natural balance and biodiversity, and protect the health of both workers and consumers. Organic farms are an integrated system where human activity combines with techniques that safeguard soil fertility, crops, animals and environmental balance. These techniques exclude the use of fertilisers, chemically synthesised phyto-pharmaceuticals and veterinary medicines, and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO).
The results are fertile soils, pesticide-free water, lower nitrate levels, biodiversity, landscape conservation, a stronger bond with the land and a major contribution to the reduction of greenhouse gases.
All of these benefits also make the running of agricultural holdings increasingly green, as they are able to recover and preserve hedgerows, woods, pools of water and tree-planting areas.
Furthermore, organic farmers have also introduced initiatives that save energy and take full advantage of renewable energy sources.
It is a fact that organic farming benefits producers and consumers alike; it also bucks the trend of traditional farming as its UAA and consumption of its produce are on the rise. 


Organic farming is becoming increasingly common throughout EU27 and figures for 2009, the latest, show that it covers 6 million hectares, almost 5% of Europe's total UAA.
Spain and Italy are spearheading this increase with more than one million hectares each.
Italy is also following Europe's positive trend, as between 2008 and 2009 there was an increase of more than 10%.
In recent years, consumption of certified organic produce has increased more than proportionally when compared to traditional produce; the demand for organic produce has also grown despite the economic and financial crisis. Veneto, however, is not in line with the developments in organic farming seen throughout Italy. One reason may be that Veneto is characterised by intensive farming, unlike Italy's other northern regions, therefore conversion to less intensive systems would not be financially viable.
Figures for 2009 show that Veneto has around 1,000 organic farmers who grow crops on just over 15,000 hectares, i.e. around 1% of Veneto's agricultural holdings and 1.8% of its UAA.
There are 163 organic farms registered with inspection boards and many of these are bee farmers. Around 50 are cattle farms; these comprise mainly dairy farms and the total number of dairy cows stands at around 1000. There are also 15 or so sheep and goat farms and a total of around 20 pig and poultry farms.
Organic farming in Veneto also increased its UAA in 2009, rising by almost 200 hectares (+1.2%). (Figure 13.2.14)
One quarter of Veneto's organic farming UAA is covered by cereal crops, especially bread and durum wheat, and corn; then come industrial and forage crops. (Figure 13.2.15)
At national level, however, there was a slight fall in the number of agricultural holdings, which stood at around 48,000 units, down 2.3% on 2008; Veneto has approximately 1,500 of these farms. (Figure 13.2.16)
Sicilia leads this industry with more than 15% of Italy's organic farms and more than 18% of its UAA.


Household consumption of organic farm produce is increasing, a sign of its growing popularity, and there was a leap between 2009 and 2010. According to the latest figures from ISMEA, in 2010 Italians purchased 11.6% more packaged organic produce than in 2009, whereas purchases of fresh fruit and vegetables rose by 6.3%.
When comparing 2009 and 2010 it becomes clear that there was an improvement in the organic farming sector in terms of consumption and, in many cases, a more balanced distribution of value along the supply chain. Organic produce also performed better than traditional produce both in consumption and in farm-gate prices.
Consumption in North East Italy increased by more than 20% in 2009, the highest rise in Italy. (Figure 13.2.17)

Biodynamic agriculture

Biodynamic agriculture is a small section of the organic farming industry that is particularly mindful of sustainability; it is inspired by the theories of Austrian philosopher and teacher Rudolf Steiner, who lived between the 19th and 20th centuries.
Biodynamic agriculture is based on an anthroposophic view of the world, which includes sustainable, environmentally-friendly farming systems, particularly for food; it encompasses the ideas of organic farming and considers the soil and whatever grows in it to be a single system.
The pillars of biodynamic theory are the use of compost, an astronomical sowing and planting calendar, and cosmic forces.
Although some biodynamic practices are scientific and have an intrinsic use (e.g. "green manure", which involves ploughing certain plants into the soil as fertilisers, and crop rotation), others are fairly eccentric and resemble magic more than rational farming.
Biodynamic agriculture is one of the most advanced production processes in terms of environmental sustainability, produce quality, and diversification. Although biodynamic agriculture has the same basic EU certification as organic farming, it is not regulated at EU level, as organic farming is, because some of its farming techniques are not scientifically recognised.
Italy has a single certifying body for biodynamic holdings which deals with more than 300 holdings, including producers, processors and distributors that cover around 10,000 hectares.
Veneto has 13 certified biodynamic holdings; although biodynamic agriculture is not yet widespread here, Veneto has enormous potential in terms of sustainability, biodiversity and quality. Production standards for biodynamic agriculture contribute knowledge to traditional farming culture and the industry's strong ethics are promoting a new brand of professional farmer.
The sustainability of coastline fishing
(Note 7) There is a range of EU, Italian and regional initiatives that aim to safeguard the coastal environment up to 3 miles offshore. The aim of this to ensure the sustainability of fishery resources, as fish often come to breed along the coast, and to preserve the economic and social livelihood of the coastal towns and villages that live off small-scale fishing. EC Regulation 1967 of 21 December 2006, commonly called the "Mediterranean Regulation", governs the protection of fishery resources; it prohibits the use of bottom trawlers within three nautical miles from the coast, and outlines other measures on the size of net mesh. The breeds of fish affected, ones that are important to fishing in the Upper Adriatic, include mainly cuttlefish, big-scale sand smelt and baby octopus. This ban affects 135 boats, many of which are small; their number has fallen over the last 25 years, but they nevertheless have a major social and economic role along Veneto's coastline. A report by the region's Social and Economic Observatory for Fishing and Aquaculture has revealed that the majority of fishing affected is small-scale, but the boat types vary by area. Boats in Pila are flat bottomed or semi flat-bottomed, which makes open-sea fishing dangerous; Caorle has small boats that are used to catch baby octopus, among other things.
At regional level, 21% of authorised boats are built for fishing over three miles from the coast, where trawling is allowed. There are 333 businesses in this industry, 36% of which use larger boats; 11% of the boat owners are 60 years old or over. The age of the boat owners and the boats themselves are relatively young and there are three crew members per boat. A total of 40% of fishing boats are over 30 years old and should be considered obsolete; 16 have applied to be decommissioned. Also note that a shortage in the aforementioned breeds risks plunging Veneto's fish markets into crisis, particularly those that supply local produce, as they get a major part of their produce from trawlers. As a result, a regional Fishing Crisis Board has been set up; it deals with fishing and other maritime industries and aims to ensure an efficient and integrated management of the coastline in order to sustain the environment, economy and livelihoods of local fishermen.
Agriculture and food: quality products
Italy started to certify the quality of its agricultural produce some time ago, and it has by far the highest number of Protected Designation of Origin (DOP), Protected Geographical Indication (IGP) and Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (STG) produce in Europe, ahead of Spain and France. (Figure 13.2.18)
In recent years, Italy's certified produce has been more successful abroad than at home: domestic consumption fell in 2008 and 2009 and did not recover in the first semester of 2010, remaining fairly constant on the same period of 2009 (+0.1%). Exports, however, soared in 2009 as they were up by 16.2% on 2008, with increases in all sectors.
Production turnovers reveal that 3 products account for more than 60% of revenue (cheeses Grana Padano and Parmigiano Reggiano and ham Prosciutto di Parma) and 5 regions for more than 80% of it (Emilia Romagna, Lombardia, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Trentino Alto Adige and Veneto). (Figure 13.2.19)
There are more than 200 designations, and clearly not all of them manage to perform as well. Indeed many of them are local or niche products and do not bring huge economic returns; they do, however, play a vital role in their production areas. Not only do they safeguard local traditions and ensure farmers can stay in their local area, but they also preserve biodiversity and support the local economy.
Almost each month, Italy becomes home to a new designation: in 2010 Veneto alone registered Asparago di Badoere (asparagus), Miele delle Dolomiti bellunesi (honey), Pesca di Verona (peach) and Formaggio Piave (cheese), which brought its number of designations to 35.
Its finest produce, however, is its range of 5 Protected Geographical Indication (IGP) radicchio, which have always been a hallmark of the region's food and agriculture industry. It is nothing other than the main species of common chicory, a wild plant that grows throughout Europe; its roots can be cooked (they were once used as a coffee substitute) as can its leaves, which can also be eaten raw. Its origins are age-old and indeed it is mentioned in the writings of Pliny the Elder. The forced techniques that made radicchio the much loved produce it is today did not come about until the mid 1700s, and they were introduced by the Treviso municipalities of Preganziol and Dosson. In the early 1900s, radicchio was the most important vegetable in the province of Treviso, but its production fell during the First World War probably because it was difficult to find the seeds; interest in it grew after the Second World War as income per capita increased.
Radicchio can be divided into two main groups: a red radicchio and a yellow-white radicchio with red-violet speckles (also known as radicchio variegato). The first group comprises radicchio di Treviso, (both its early and late varieties), radicchio di Chioggia and radicchio di Verona; the second group comprises radicchio di Castelfranco and radicchio di Lusia. (Figure 13.2.20)
King of the radicchio is most definitely the radicchio rosso di Chioggia, which accounts for almost 70% of regional production. Its predominance is due to its higher potential yield, but also to the amounts of its UAA. The Treviso and Verona varieties each account for around 10% of the total.
Radicchio is also feeling the agriculture crisis as its UAA fell from 2005/2006 to 2008/2009. The main changes were to the UAA devoted to the Chioggia and Treviso varieties; UAA for the Verona and Castelfranco varieties remained unchanged. Although radicchio variegato requires more care post-harvest, its sales have shown a linear trend that has convinced producers to continue growing it.
Over the years, all of the varieties have been awarded the IGP quality mark, which has enabled the region to maintain both the product and local traditions.
However, we are unable to evaluate the long-term performance of radicchio in consumption terms, as figures date back only to 2007; before then radicchio was classified under "other vegetables". Over the last few years, however, Italians have put increasing amounts of radicchio into their shopping baskets. Sales soared in 2009, up 26% on the average of the two previous years, and the trend continued into 2010, growing by 2% on 2009. A direct consequence is that its retail price has risen; in 2010, spending on radicchio rose by 24% on 2009 and by 64% on the 2007-2008 average. The increase in purchases, however, is a clear sign of its success and its consumption does not seem to be affected by the average selling price. (Figure 13.2.21)
Italian families purchased an average of around 2.6 kg of radicchio in 2010; this average was vastly exceeded by Italy's North East regions, which purchased an average of 4.15 kg, showing a direct link between consumption and production areas.
In addition to its more well-known DOP and IGP marks, the European Union has also established the Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (STG) mark, which safeguards specific characteristics and local tradition, but is not linked to the production area. STG products stand out from similar products because of their special recipe and they must have been available within the EU for at least one generation, i.e. 25 years.
To be classified as an STG, the product must conform to a bespoke EU specification and undergo regular inspections by an inspection body.
Two Italian products have been awarded this mark: Mozzarella STG and Pizza Napoletana.
Regione Veneto introduced its Regional Certified Quality Mark with a 2001 law. This mark tells consumers that they are buying a quality product and ensures the product can be traced. Certification is voluntary and public authorities award it to products whose quality is higher than that achieved with standard production techniques. Higher quality products are governed by a specification that requires them to be produced with Integrated Pest Management (IPM).
Regione Veneto has also established a list of what it calls Traditional Foodstuffs and Agricultural Products (PAT) for each province. This list currently includes 367 products belonging to the main categories (beverages, meat and offal, cheese, vegetable products, baked products, animal products, fish and molluscs, and fats). These products are made, preserved and seasoned as part of a certain category according to traditional rules that have been followed for at least 25 years. 
Many of the products on the PAT list are also part of Slow Food's Presidia, which require products to be meet specifications that ensure they are made with the same characteristics. The Slow Food Presidia Project was launched in 1999 and covers rare agricultural produce and foodstuffs that are in danger of extinction; these products are made with timeless environmentally-friendly techniques that are a far cry from those used in modern agriculture, which tends to homogenise. The project is founded on a small circle of producers that source quality raw materials and use traditional production techniques. Slow Food membership enables producers to be supervised by experts throughout the production, promotion and sale of their goods. The products are sold either by the producer or by producer associations; although prices are higher, the Presidia are a guarantee for the consumer and there is less risk of food fraud.
The Slow Food production specification is actually stricter than those for DOP and IGP. Once these products were for the countryside's poor, but today they are niche products for today's wealthier society.
The number of Presidia is constantly growing. Italy currently has almost 200, 13 of which are in Veneto. (Table 13.2.1)


There is a range of laws that govern the labelling, presentation and promotion of agricultural products and foodstuffs. Italy's main law is Legislative Decree DL 109/1992. This law was later amended by a European Directive that aimed to harmonise labelling through the EU. The directive was introduced in Italy under DL 181/2003. 
Labelling was introduced so that the consumer can read the product's specifications and then compare them with similar products. The aim is protect one of the pillars of the free market and to ensure that the consumer is not fooled into buying a product by false advertising.
According to current legislation, labels must show the product's name, the list of ingredients in descending order, net weight, minimum period of conservation, expiry date, producer's name and location, how the product is to be stored and, where necessary, the batch number. Producers may then, at their own discretion, add information to promote the product, such as a quality mark or the production date.
In a country such as Italy, which boasts a vast range of quality local produce, a national labelling law is more than ever a matter of common interest and a means to fight counterfeit Italian products. It promotes the quality of Italy's produce and safeguards it from globalisation.  

Protecting biodiversity

The increasing demands of the world market have brushed aside the agriculture of our forefathers. Modern farming is geared towards providing standardised products that meet the needs of consumers, who tend to purchase the first thing they see on the supermarket shelf. The current system is based on using an increasingly limited range of plants and animals characterised by high yields. This clashes with the safeguarding of Rural Biodiversity, which aims to diversify production by ensuring an area's native genetic patrimony stays as high as possible; this includes native animals, fruit and vegetables that are processed and used according to traditional methods. Crop farming and animal breeding, their processing and use, are part of local history and culture. They must not be safeguarded simply for the sake of it or through nostalgia for times gone by, but because they can be used to benefit producers, processors and consumers.
New animal and vegetable hybrids, which promise higher yields, have led to the loss of local breeds that have landrace characteristics and a higher resistance to disease; they may provide a lower yield, but they are tastier by far.
The rediscovery of distant traditions and flavours is not only due to the increasing interest in good food, but to rightful recognition of local flavours and diversity.
Association and bodies, both public and private, have introduced farming and sponsorship programmes so that consumers are able to enjoy these products once more.
One major example is the Co.Va. project run by Veneto Agricoltura, which aims to conserve and valorise local breeds of poultry. This project focuses attention on breeds that should be protected on account of their production potential and their fascinating historical, social and cultural contribution to the local area. As these are landrace breeds and more resistant to disease than commercial hybrid animals, they are better suited to breeding in marginalised areas such as the hills or mountains.
Veneto's regional government has teamed up with the Strampelli Genetics Institute in Lonigo and Veneto Agricoltura to introduce a host of similar initiatives for horticultural crops, which will mean the conservation and valorisation of traditional cereal varieties, including pearlwhite corn.
This open-pollination corn was replaced in the 1950s by new, more productive hybrids. Although pearlwhite corn has a much lower yield, this is compensated by the higher quality of its flour. It seems that today there is greater awareness of what used to be considered "poor man's" products, ones made in small quantities by small-scale producers; on their own, it would have been impossible to introduce an efficient, proper-sized supply chain. In 2002, however, the production areas of this traditional product in the provinces of Padova, Treviso and Venezia teamed up to become a Slow Food Presidium. Regione Veneto aims to improve the quality of flour, in particular flour made with the traditional practice of stone-milling, which enhances its organoleptic properties.
Efforts to promote these products are part of major conservation projects that do not only maintain morphological characteristics, but also feature selection plans, reduce inbreeding and promote restocking so that they can be spread throughout the region.
Farming procedures have an ambiguous relationship with biodiversity: on the one hand the pressure they exert on the land has a negative impact, on the other they enrich genetic and habitat variety by introducing new farming and breeding systems. This means that maintaining even a certain degree of long-term biodiversity is a difficult matter. One example of this is the spring 2009 bee plague, which is believed to have been caused by incorrect use of pesticides that were used to protect plants against disease, but turned out to be harmful for bees. If we really cannot do without phyto-pharmaceuticals because biodiversity means crops are unable to provide sufficient yield, then we must be extremely careful how we use them. We must observe current regulations in order to prevent environmental pollution and to protect the health of the farmers who use them.
Agriculture and society

Urban allotments

Up to the pre-industrial age, each phase of urban growth had been accompanied by a proportional growth in greenery and farmland. Allotments were once quite common in all major cities and towns. In the 1960s and 1970s, Italy plummeted to a historic low in the amateur cultivation of allotments as in cities it had become a sign of low social and economic standing, as well as a blot on the landscape. Interest in urban allotments only returned in the 1980s when Europe was hit by an economic crisis. 
Although Italy's cityscape has not changed, today urban allotments are being revived not to make money, but because people want to know "what they are eating"; the phenomenon is becoming increasingly widespread both in villages and cities.
Over the last twenty years, there has been a boom in city allotments that do not belong to the people who grow them, but to associations or local authorities that assign them to the green-fingered.
Growing an allotment is a constructive pastime that sets up a direct link with nature and teaches natural gardening techniques; it is also a means of promoting social aggregation.
These allotments are normally small plots of municipal land (between 40 m2 and 65 m2) set aside for vegetable patches and recreational gardening, which are then loaned to applicants. The majority of municipal administrations assign the allotments through official competitions. Produce grown there is for household use and not-for-profit.
Interest in amateur farming is becoming increasingly widespread; it is not however only due to the economic crisis, as many people also want to rediscover the goodness and convenience of food they have grown themselves. Nowadays this trend is also taking off in the countryside and the 'hobby farmer' has become a popular figure. Normally hobby farmers have a full-time job outside the farming industry, but they own a small plot of land that they farm in their spare time.
Figures from the latest agriculture censuses have revealed the extent of this phenomenon. At national level, UAA fell by 1.8 million hectares between 1990 and 2000 and around 430,000 agricultural holdings closed. However, the figures for the average size of agricultural holdings remained unchanged, a sign that the land was not consolidated. Although some land may have been abandoned, it is unthinkable that all of these 1.8 million hectares were to be cemented over; in fact the European project "Corine Land Cover" used aerial photography to show that farmland had fallen by an estimated 143,000 hectares. This small loss was a clear sign that the purpose of UAA had not changed dramatically, but that it had changed hands, from farmers to professionals, including the hobby-farmer.

Social and educational farms

Interest in social activities both in Italy and Veneto is becoming increasingly widespread, not only within the public sphere in the shape of urban allotments, but also within agricultural holdings.
This stems from a need for agricultural holdings to diversify their activities and as a result farms have become multi-functional. As the main aim of the farmer is to ensure a respectable income, he or she combines traditional business with social projects. These are generally initiatives to help disadvantaged people, such as prisoners, drug-addicts, the elderly or the disabled; they can, however, also be used to educate young people, including school pupils. Although social farms and educational farms may appear very similar, we will discuss them separately.
Social farms are enterprises that provide assistance, training and employment for disadvantaged people; the majority of these farms work with public organisations or ones that belong to the tertiary sector. People with disabilities may find that working on a farm helps them physically and mentally, as the farms offer a chance for social aggregation and give rise to new interests or rediscover old ones. They also provide a means for people to return to society through job training, sometimes employment will be found at the same farm. Applications for Measure 311 of the Rural Development Programme (RDP)-Diversification into Non-Agricultural Activities reveals that today Verona has the highest number of social farms in Veneto, whereas Vicenza does not have any. The other provinces have intermediate values. (Figure 13.2.22)
Educational farms, however, are set up so that producers and young people can share information through fun educational activities. Young people today have an increasingly vague idea as to what the food chain involves; they often do not realise that farms, not the agricultural product and foodstuff industry, or even the supermarkets, are the source of their food. This is another reason why educational farms are becoming more and more popular. Veneto has almost 230; figures soared by 165% between 2003 and 2010. (Figure 13.2.23)
Agriculture and 0 food miles (Note 8)

Raw milk distributors in Veneto

Although the dairy industry has been producing fresh and UHT milk for decades, the last few years have seen a revival in the consumption of raw milk. There are two main reasons for this: one is that people have set up consumer groups that are looking for wholesome flavours and processes linked to country-life; the other is the controversy surrounding the earnings of milk farmers when they sell their produce to industries, which has led to them selling their milk directly to the public.
Over the last five or six years, the latter reason has been the driving force behind many milk farmers; they have invested in innovative facilities and equipment and have introduced efficient hygiene and health checks, as well as self-controls in dairies. They therefore believe they have all the right means to sell their milk directly to the public via self-service distributors; this enables them to skip several stages of the supply chain and increase their earnings.
Italy has around 1,500 active distributors in 93 provinces (Note 9). The majority of these distributors are in the North, as this is where the most milk producers are based. According to regional health service figures published in July 2010, Veneto has 256 active distributors, which are mainly located in the provinces of Padova (66) and Treviso (61), followed by Verona (41) and Venezia (37). In Veneto 129 milk farms have set up distributors: around 50% are located in the provinces of Treviso and Padova, and a further 28% in the provinces of Verona and Venezia. (Figure 13.2.24)
The first distributor was launched in December 2005. A further 16 were opened in 2006 and another 28 in 2007. The real boom, however, came in the following years: 96 in 2008 and almost the same again in 2009; another 27 had opened by July 2010. The actual number of distributors opened between December 2005 and July 2010 is higher, but there are no official dates for the opening of about 30 distributors. A total of 294 distributors have been opened in Veneto. Some of them started to close in 2008, mainly because sales did not cover the cost of the investment. A total of 38 have closed: 6 in 2008, 24 in 2009, and 8 between January and July 2010.
After the initial boom, the raw-milk market is starting to stabilise. It is a product that interests a small percentage of consumers and interest varies from place to place, also within the same town. Furthermore, Modern Distribution wasted no time in responding to this competition: from 2009, supermarket shelves began to be filled with pasteurised fresh milk that was the same price, if not lower than that on sale from the distributors. Another factor that may have reduced the number of distributors was a government order that forced milk producers to put up a notice on their distributors stating that the milk had to be boiled before drinking. This went some way to undermining consumer confidence in the safety of the milk; many started to buy from traditional sources again, as they were also attracted by the lower price of pasteurised fresh milk with a recognised label.
A sample survey by Veneto Agricoltura in the fourth quarter of 2010 made interesting reading on milk-distributor sales. It revealed that the average monthly amount of milk sold through distributors from the start of 2007 to November 2008 rose, and stood at over 3,000 litres in late 2008. From December 2008, the amount of milk fell sharply and in 2009 sales were below 2,000 litres per month. This downward trend continued into 2010 and settled at below 1,500 litres per month.
The price of milk from distributors varied from 70 euro cents to 1 euro per litre; the majority of milk cost between 90 euro cents and 1 euro. The preferred method of payment was to pay up-front with a discount of around 10%. Taking the average of the first 9 months of the year, the overall turnover of distributor sales is estimated at almost 4 million euro in 2010, down on the estimated 4.5 million euro turnover in 2009. (Figure 13.2.25)

Farmers markets

Farmers markets are a special means of selling agricultural products and foodstuffs that reduces the steps in the supply chain, thus enabling farmers and producers to sell directly to purchasers and consumers. They were introduced into Italy's 2007 Budget, which was followed by a law from its Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policy (MiPAAF) on 20 November 2007 that regulated their establishment.
It is the role of local municipal authorities to establish and authorise farmers markets and a special regulation governs how produce can be sold and where it may come from. Municipal authorities also check that a market standard and health and safety regulations are observed. Farmers markets may be run by the municipal authorities or by associations, consortiums or entrepreneur groups that have signed an agreement with the local authorities.
Markets are set up in public areas, on public premises or on private property. The number of participating farms and the frequency of the market are decided by the municipal authorities. Farmers markets are allowed to sell agricultural produce that meets standards, is produced by the farm itself and, to a lesser extent, by farms situated in the area covered by the regulation. Processed products may also be sold. Products must carry a label that states where they were produced and the name of the producer.
According to a report by Regione Veneto, in June 2010 Veneto had 46 farmers markets: 33% (15) were held in the province of Venezia; 11 in the province of Verona; 8 in Treviso; 6 in Padova, double the 2009 figure; and 3 each in Rovigo and Vicenza. No farmers markets took place in the province of Belluno. (Figure 13.2.26)
In 2009, Veneto Agricoltura conducted a survey that produced a vast range of information on all of the farmers markets hosted by the Veneto region; information came from 203 producers questionnaires and 264 consumers questionnaires.
Farmers markets were mainly set up in town centres (49%)or in the immediate vicinity (30%). A total of 79% of markets took place once a week: 28% on Saturday and 16% on Sunday. A total of 56% of markets, however, took place during the week. More than 500 stalls were present at the markets surveyed, an average of 12 per market. These stalls were fairly small sales plots (2 m2 and 5 m2 in 52% of cases) and 80% were covered (generally by a gazebo); 38% of these gazebos were standardised as they were issued by the municipal authority or association organising the market.
A total of 53% of plots sold fruit and vegetables, while between 10% and 12% sold dairy products, meat and meat by-products, or wine. The rest sold other types of produce such as oil, eggs, cereals, plants and flowers, preserves and jams, honey etc.
It is estimated that 300 producers took part in the farmers markets. The interviews revealed that they were direct sales 'professionals' as three quarters had been taking part in these markets for more than four years; 60% took part in more than one market, and about half attended farmers markets for more than 50 days per year. Participation clearly has a major impact on running a holding, and 18% of interviewees said that it did cause them difficulties. It also limits the origins of producers to relatively short distances from the market: 31% travel less than 10 km to reach the market and 30% travel between 10 km and 20 km. A total of 76% of producers stated that they had made investments to take part in these markets; investments mainly included displays, stands and gazebos, or sales equipment, such as scales, trolleys, crates and price signs.
A total of 78% of agricultural holdings had a turnover of below 100,000 euro and sold to a local or regional market; only 17% sold their produce outside Veneto. A total of 70% of sales were made directly, with the remainder accounted for by wholesalers, cooperatives or producers organisations. The majority of direct sales were made from the farm itself (44% of the value), and farmers markets made up 33%. As it is a fairly new sales channel, 71% of producers make less than 20% of their turnover from farmers markets and 47% of producers make less than 10%. (Figure 13.2.27)
Overall, 94% of producers stated that participating in a farmers market was a positive experience and 83% said that they would continue to use farmers markets, as their annual revenue had increased; they also saw an advantage in establishing a direct link and a long-term relationship with their customers. They also benefitted from an increase in customers as well as a certain and immediate income.
The majority of farmers-market customers were women (65%) aged between 40 and 60 years old (41%) or over (38%). Families had mainly 3-4 members (47%), but there were also two-member families (37%), mainly adults between 30 and 65 years old and over. Almost 80% travelled less than 5 km to reach the market and half walked or cycled. A high number of people also drove (46%) so that they could make large-scale purchases, as the car-parks were close to the market. More than half of interviewees (53%) said that they went to farmers markets once a week. They mainly found out about farmers markets by word of mouth from friends or acquaintances, or because they were passing by. It was rarer that they found out about the markets via newspapers or leaflets, which shows how little these markets are publicised. Consequently, consumers often lacked information or had misunderstood where products had come from, who was allowed to sell at the market or who had organised the farmers market.
Fruit and vegetables accounted for the majority of purchases (95% of customers); almost half (48%) purchased dairy produce, and a much lower percentage purchased meat or meat by-products, honey, wine, preserves, jams, other processed products or flowers. Customers spent an average amount of 15 euro and about 75% said they spent between 5 and 20 euro each time they went to a market. It is estimated that approximately 650,000 people visit farmers markets each year and they make a total of 1.4 million purchases for a value of more than 10 million euro a year.
If we look at the reasons for purchases, customers and producers seem to have a difference in opinion: although both state that a guarantee of wholesome, fresh produce (69% of consumers) and taste and flavour (53%) are the main two reasons, their opinions differ elsewhere. Consumers declare that they go to the farmers markets for the low prices (46%), because they have confidence in the producer (31%) and they can be sure that products are safer and healthier (29%); on the other hand producers say customers buy from them because they have confidence in the producer (54%) and that they can establish a direct link with producers (38%) as they are able to help customers choose. (Figure 13.2.28)
Agriculture and the future: the new CAP after 2013
(Note 10) The EU's Europe 2020 Strategy contains a revised version of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) that will enable Europe to face a host of specific and often unforeseen challenges in order to ensure a long-term future for the agriculture industry and rural areas. The path that led to the European Commission's report "The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) towards 2020 - Meeting the food, natural resources and territorial challenges of the future, COM (2010) 672/5" envisaged a series of phases that involved public opinion (Online consultation, 2010), the European Council and Parliament, as well as the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions. It confirmed the need for the future CAP to continue to build its common policy on two complementary pillars: the first regards direct payments to producers and market measures, and the second regards long-term plans for rural development.
The objectives are to:
  • preserve the EU's food production potential in order to ensure sustainability and food security;
  • support farming communities which provide a wide variety of quality, sustainable foodstuffs, while observing objectives for the environment, water, public health, as well as the health and wellbeing of animals and plants;
  • preserve the livelihood of rural communities, for which agriculture is a vital economic activity that creates local employment.
The proposal confirms that agriculture is a key component of Europe's economy and society, and any regression would entail major repercussions, both direct and indirect, on related economic sectors, rural activities, tourism, transport and rural livelihoods; the damage caused to the environment and society would be difficult to quantify. The CAP should be built on a first pillar that is greener and fairer and on a second pillar that is geared towards competition and innovation, climate change and the environment; it should also comply with the objectives of the Europe 2020 Strategy. In order to ensure aid is efficient and effective and to further legitimate the CAP, the EU must evaluate whether to target support exclusively to active farmers and to remunerate the services that these farmers provide to society as a whole. The EU must, however, ensure that its measures can be checked and continue to simplify its policies and their implementation. In a nutshell, the CAP aims to ensure that European agriculture is competitive and strikes a balance between land-use and the environment, an agriculture that will also remunerate all of the agricultural produce that is not adequately regulated and compensated for by the market (public goods).
The tools it plans to use to achieve these objectives are direct payments and market measures (first pillar) and rural development (second pillar) chosen from a range of possible options that will need to be assessed and checked during the final stages of writing the regulations. The three options outlined in the Communication envisage amending the current tools: the second option envisages introducing more equity in the distribution of direct aid by dividing the payments into instalments that will be paid to meet specific objectives (income support, "greening", and compensating for specific natural constraints); these payments will be geared mainly towards active farmers. Market measures regard streamlining and simplifying existing market instruments; new measures may also be introduced to improve the running of the food supply chain. Rural development once again plays an essential role in the sustainability of the EU's agriculture industry and rural areas in economic, environmental and social terms; the objectives are explicitly along current lines (competitiveness, sustainable resource management, balanced territorial development). This section also highlights the key issues that will have to be at the centre of policy-making:
  • innovation
  • environment
  • climate change
The Regional Agriculture and Rural Development Conference
(Note 11) In order to put forward its own position, one that would be useful for planning national strategy after 2013, Regione Veneto organised a Regional Agriculture and Rural Development Conference, which aimed to map out the future development of rural Veneto and the agriculture industry, as well as the complementary strategies that will need to be implemented in the next planning period. The main objective of the conference was to agree on an Agenda for Strategic Priorities that would guide and forecast the development of Veneto's agriculture and rural areas in the medium term; the agenda was based on EU forecasts and the regional government's current agriculture programme.
The conference began with a workshop that presented current EU policy and an agenda of possible priorities on which discussion about the future of Veneto's agriculture could be based; the following priorities were established:
  • Innovation, information and the knowledge supply chain;
  • Market globalisation and new tools;
  • Agriculture and forestry systems, the environment and production of public goods;
  • Product quality and sustainability;
  • Governance and federalism for agriculture and rural areas.
In order to achieve these aims, alongside the usual workshops, an online consultation was launched in order to involve anyone who had ideas that would help compile the Agenda for Strategic Priorities for Veneto's agriculture, forestry and rural system.

The Agenda for Strategic Priorities

By the end of the Conference, the strategic priorities had taken on a clearer and stronger framework comprising key points for regional action in the light of EU policies, for society as a whole (Europe 2020) and for the Common Agricultural Policy reform (CAP 2020):
  • innovation, information and knowledge recognise, share and promote innovation, information and knowledge as fundamental conditions for the growth and development of human capital, business, and the agricultural and rural system.
  • competitiveness for sustainable, long-term growth improve and consolidate the competitiveness of active holdings and the rural system so that they can face and handle phenomena caused by globalisation and the crisis, thus ensuring sustainable, long-term development, as well as social and economic cohesion.
  • sustainable and balanced management of public goods systems and production combine development and growth with the sustainable management of rural systems, the local area, as well as the environment and its resources, in order to encourage agriculture to produce public goods and to promote them within the economy.
  • widespread, certified and recognised quality promote, disseminate and recognise quality as a means towards fostering value and growth, as well as economic, social and environmental sustainability.
  • subsidiarity and federalism through governance and simplification recognise, pursue and apply the principles of subsidiarity and federalism through efficient governance in order to ensure effective implementation of policies and simplification of bureaucracy.

Figure 13.2.1

Simple fertiliser (tonnes per ha of UAA) distributed in agriculture per region. Italy - Year 2009

Figure 13.2.2

% variation in the main type of fertilisers used. Veneto and Italy. Years 2009/08

Figure 13.2.3

Nutritional elements in fertilisers per hectare of fertilisable area in kg. Veneto and Italy. Years 2004-2009

Figure 13.2.4

Active principles (kg. per ha of UAA) distributed in agriculture by region. Italy - Year 2009

Figure 13.2.5

Distribution of phytosanitary products by agricultural use. Active principles distributed (kg per ha of UAA). Veneto and Italy. Years 2001-2009

Figure 13.2.6

Livestock Units (LSU) per km2 and region. Italy - Year 2008

Figure 13.2.7

Livestock Density Index per region. Year 2008 and 2008/02 % var.

Figure 13.2.8

Municipalities with authorised biogas plants. Veneto - Years 2007-2010

Figure 13.2.9

Division by province of biogas plants by building stage. Veneto - Years 2007-2010

Figure 13.2.10

Type of fuel for biogas plants. Veneto - Years 2007-2010

Figure 13.2.11

Number of photovoltaic systems by year of Single Authorisation application. Veneto - Years 2009-2011

Figure 13.2.12

Distribution by size of photovoltaic system. Veneto - Years 2009-2011

Figure 13.2.13

Plants authorised or being authorised by province. Veneto - Years 2009-2011

Figure 13.2.14

Organic farming UAA by region. Year 2009 and 2009/08 % var.

Figure 13.2.15

% distribution of organic farming UAA by type. Veneto - Year 2009

Figure 13.2.16

Number of producers by region. Year 2009 and 2009/08 % var.

Figure 13.2.17

% share by geographical area and % variation in consumption of pre-packaged organic products. Italy.  Years 2010/09

Figure 13.2.18

Products registered as DOP, IGP and STG. Ranking of top 8 Member States. Year 2010

Figure 13.2.19

Turnover (millions di euro) for DOP and IGP products by region. Italy.  Year 2009 and 2009/08 % var.

Figure 13.2.20

Production of radicchio by type. Veneto - Agricultural Year 2008/09

Figure 13.2.21

% variation in consumption/price of radicchio. Veneto - Years 2007-2010

Table 13.2.1

List of Slow Food Presidia. Veneto - Year 2010

Figure 13.2.22

Social farms by province. Veneto - Year 2010

Figure 13.2.23

Educational farms by province. Veneto - Year 2010

Figure 13.2.24

Coverage of raw milk distributors per province. Veneto. July 2010

Figure 13.2.25

Trend among distributors surveyed in the number of distributors opened and the average amount of milk sold per distributor. Veneto - Jan 2007 - July/Sept. 2010

Figure 13.2.26

Distribution of farmers market per province. Veneto. Year 2010

Figure 13.2.27

Sales by direct sales channel used by producers taking part in  farmers markets

Figure 13.2.28

Reasons why consumers purchase from farmers market (compared with why producers think they do, figures in %)

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