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4 - Agricultural holdings: a tradition of quality

Top  Agricultural holdings

Although Italy's agricultural holdings have undergone radical changes and widespread re-evaluation of their purpose over the last twenty years, many more challenges lie ahead.
Smaller holdings are quickly disappearing from the economic and production landscape; the average size of a holding is slowly, yet constantly increasing; and competition from EU and non-EU countries has triggered a price war. Consequently Italian holdings are forced to find effective answers and have very little time to do so.
The solution to falling agricultural revenue, soaring intermediate costs, dwindling labour, unpredictable weather, counterfeit food, and foreign competition lies in the ability of agricultural holdings to become multifunctional, protect the landscape and typical products, preserve tradition, produce alternative energy sources, supply high-quality products, trace the supply chain, ensure food safety, and certify products.
A host of strategies is being implemented to attract consumers, who are increasingly careful with their money and on the look-out for quality products. Such strategies include farmers' markets (Note 1), raw-milk dispensers, and selling products directly from the source. The recurring theme is fairly clear: shorten the supply chain and thus reduce the price for final consumers.
Although this idea has won the approval of producers and consumers alike, it will not catch on immediately. According to a survey, in 2005, only 5% of Veneto agricultural holdings sold more than 50% of their produce directly to the public, making it a niche market for the time being.
The same applies to becoming more multifunctional. Although recent analysis has revealed that agriculture-associated activities are rarely exploited or do not win mass popularity, the most successful are unquestionably agrotourism establishments, which currently number more than one thousand in Veneto alone, a figure that puts Veneto in third place behind Trentino Alto Adige and Toscana.
Regarding quality produce, approximately 1,000 Veneto holdings are involved in organic farming, which covers almost 18,000 hectares of Utilised Agricultural Area (UAA), around 2% of Veneto's Total Agricultural Area (TAA). It is a similar story for typical produce: although Veneto is Italy's second leading region for the number of quality certifications, the region accounts for just 5% of the sector's national turnover (Note 2).
Agricultural holdings have launched an array of initiatives to earn themselves a slice of the market, yet much still needs to be done and there is enormous scope for improvement.
Below is an in-depth look into the structure and most common types of agricultural holdings in Veneto. A range of homogeneous subsets will be used according to production establishments, such as subdivision by type of farming (Note 3).
In order to classify holdings in accordance with these criteria, the EU has decided to use Standard Gross Margin (SGM): this is the difference between the gross production value per area unit (hectare) of crops and/or per head of livestock and the specific costs required to obtain it.
SGM per hectare or per head of livestock multiplied by each holding's total hectares or total heads of livestock respectively provide the total SGM for each crop and each type of livestock. These values are then added to obtain a holding's overall gross margin and also its economic size. Economic size is expressed in European Size Units (ESU) and has a corresponding SGM.
In 2005, 47% of the 143,000 agricultural holdings in Veneto specialised in cereal crops, oil crops and protein crops.
In second place was wine-growing (13%) and in third place horticultural and woodland crops (8%).
A glance at these specialisations reveals that the highest UAA belongs to holdings that breed mainly grain-eating livestock (poultry, swine and rabbits) with 25.8 hectares, followed by ones that rear cattle with 17.9 hectares. Olive farms are the holdings with the lowest average UAA with 0.37 hectares. (Figure 4.1)
A glance at the average UAA per ESU class reveals that holdings with a larger ESU own a proportionally higher average of UAA, as would be expected. Indeed, the range runs from under 2 hectares for holdings in the first two ESU categories (0-1, 1-2) up to almost 90 hectares for the last category (more than 250). Clearly the larger holdings have a higher revenue.
Economic results
Veneto agriculture does not contribute a great deal to the added value produced within the region's entire economic system because economic development is mainly concentrated within industry and, more recently, within services. However agriculture is more important than it might first appear, especially when we take into account the increasing interaction between 'traditional' agriculture and the food industry, not to mention the increasingly close ties between agricultural activities, the local area and the natural ecosystem. Although the number of agricultural holdings has dropped sharply over the last few years, recognition must be given to the value of Veneto's agriculture on account of its productivity.
In 2005 Italian agricultural holdings within the EU universe (Note 4), which does not include micro-farms, numbered little more than 1.6 million. Veneto accounted for 8.2% of these holdings, a figure that ranks Veneto in fourth position after Puglia, Sicilia and Campania. Veneto's 134,000 or so agricultural holdings, of which 41,052 have a turnover of more than 10,000 euros, employ more than 100,000 Agricultural Labour Units (Note 5), about 8% of the national total. (Figure 4.2)
It is well known that the larger holdings and better economic performances are in North Italy; Lombardia is the leading region for production value and added value, but Veneto is in second place (40,428 euro) for production value per labour unit followed by Piemonte.

Top  Controlled Designation of Origin (D.O.C.) in Veneto

(Note 6) Not only do today's consumers demand safe, first-rate food, but they also want to know about its production methods and origin, as well as to be able to recognise and distinguish quality produce.
The path towards quality has become a strategic choice for regional producers for two main reasons: one is to create consumer confidence; the other is to recover profit margins by distinguishing their products from ones that may soon arrive from non-EU countries, where low production costs and looser legal and environmental regulations give products a competitive edge in terms of prices.
Quality marks on agricultural and food products play a major role in the development of supply chains in that they enable enterprises to implement differentiation strategies and thus benefit from the advantages of monopolistic competition.
The hallmark of the food and agriculture industry is that it has a wider range of quality certifications than all other industries. Each certification is geared towards guaranteeing different features of a company such as its reliability, production process, and compliance with environmental, hygiene and health regulations. Alternatively companies aim at certifying product characteristics, such as its organoleptic properties, the origin of its raw materials, its tradition, and the absence of certain substances and GM products.
Many of these systems are proposed voluntarily by companies to certify the quality of their products, or they are imposed on agriculture and food industry suppliers by modern distribution groups.
Alongside voluntary, private quality certifications, there are also institutional systems set out by the European Community in order to protect and promote the enogastronomic heritage of many EU countries. This is done to defend producers from illegal imitations and from having their typical products usurped, as well as to safeguard consumers from quality fraud.
The origin of a product, in particular, is guaranteed by EU regulations with designations such as Protected Designation of Origin (D.O.P.); Protected Geographical Indication (I.G.P.); and Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (S.T.G.) (Regulation (EC) no. 509 and 510/2006); as well as Wines of Quality Produced in Determined Regions (V.Q.P.R.D.) for wines (Regulation (EC) no. 1493/1999). These designations tie a product's characteristic qualities with its area of origin, thus ensuring that its characteristics cannot be reproduced in areas outside those envisaged by the regulation.
If these designations are used properly, they create a real advantage for agricultural producers in certain areas. Consequently these certifications are retained strategic by Regione Veneto, which has always helped its producers to obtain and maintain these certifications, as well as to promote their products both in Italy and abroad.
Veneto ranks among Italy's leading regions for quality products with twenty-three recognised D.O.P. or I.G.T. products. Another three (Casatella Trevigiana, Radicchio di Chioggia, and Radicchio di Verona) are soon to be awarded recognition; eight are awaiting recognition in Brussels. Veneto also has twenty-eight designation of origin wines: twenty-five are Controlled Designation of Origin (D.O.C.) and three are Controlled and Guaranteed Designation of Origin (D.O.C.G.). (Figure 4.3)
Today more than 6,000 agricultural holdings in Veneto have D.O.P. or I.G.P. products; 4,000 of these are holdings that produce milk for D.O.P. cheeses. The number of holdings permitted to use Community designations could soar in the next few years if Brussels recognises the eight applications for designation awaiting registration and the Ministry recognises those being assessed.
Designation of origin wines and products are common throughout the region, with most belonging to areas with unique environments such as the region's hills, which is home both to D.O.C. and D.O.C.G. wines, as well as to D.O.P. and I.G.P. products.
Some geographical areas that currently do not have as many recognised designations, such as the provinces of Belluno and Rovigo, may very soon be awarded recognition for new products. If the European Commission were to recognise the designation of the regional products currently being assessed in Brussels, then this would give producers a host of new opportunities.
Designation plays a major role in the cheese industry, where more than 50% of regional products, including Grana Padano, Asiago, Montasio, Provolone Valpadana and Monte Veronese, have been recognised. Another two cheeses, Piave, which is awaiting its D.O.P., and Casatella Trevigiana, which is expected to be awarded its D.O.P. by the end of April, will add value to Veneto milk production, in particular in the provinces of Belluno and Treviso.
Regarding meat products, Veneto's two current designations Prosciutto Veneto Berico-Euganeo, which is produced in Padova and Vicenza, and Sopressa Vicentina, will probably be joined in the next few years by other products currently being assessed. It is also worth noting that Veneto producers are allowed to use some product designations from other regions as they have also been envisaged for some areas of Veneto, including Mortadella Bologna (I.G.P.); Salamini Italiani alla cacciatora (D.O.P.); Zampone and Cotechino di Modena (I.G.P.); and Salame Cremona (I.G.P.).
Designations have started to become common for fruit and vegetables, and Veneto farmers can use these designations to add value to their produce. Designations include Radicchio di Treviso and Radicchio di Castelfranco (both I.G.P.); Radicchio di Chioggia and Radicchio di Verona are also due to become I.G.P.. Radicchio di Chioggia was published in the EU's Official Gazette on 15 February 2008 and Radicchio di Verona will hopefully be included in the next issue. The addition of these two products makes Veneto Europe's leading producer of red radicchio.
The production of asparagus is also important in Veneto. The region's asparagus varieties include Cimadolmo (I.G.P.), which is already on the market; Bianco di Bassano (D.O.P.), which was awarded recognition in September 2007; and Badoere, which is being assessed in Brussels.
Although Riso Vialone Nano Veronese (rice), Fagioli di Lamon (beans), Ciliegie di Marostica (cherries), and Marroni di San Zeno (chestnuts) are produced on a small to medium scale, they nevertheless enable enterprises to diversify and integrate their revenue. Furthermore they are an interesting attraction for consumers and tourists alike. Another two types of chestnut, one type of rice, salad and garlic may also soon be a source of added value for producers.
It is now down to the producers to take full advantage of these EU marks to add extra value to their produce as both modern distribution and consumers are increasingly attracted to products that bear them.
The future seems even brighter for the designations of regional wines, despite there being huge differences in the situations and prospects of the various designations.
Designation-of-origin wine in Veneto accounts for more than 50% of the region's Gross Saleable Production (GSP) (600 million euros) and more than 25% of regional production volume, which varies from 7 to more than 8 hectolitres per annum.
Veneto's 25 D.O.C. and 3 D.O.C.G. wines cover a production area of more than 25,000 hectares (3% of regional UAA) and involve about 30,000 wine-growing businesses and 44 wine cooperatives. More than 85% of UAA is devoted to the eight main designations: Soave, Conegliano-Valdobbiadene, Valpolicella, Bardolino, Piave, Colli Berici, Bianco di Custoza, and Lison Pramaggiore. (Table 4.1) and (Figure 4.4)
The market's conditions and positive outlook, and thus the need to remain competitive and innovative in a dynamic international environment, have led most businesses that export abroad to invest heavily. This is why it was important for businesses to adopt the tools envisaged by latest Rural Development Plan (R.D.P.), in particular its structural investments and certain types of quality certification.
The R.D.P. 2007-2013 envisages that producers who adopt these tools are to be given contributions that will encourage them to implement official quality systems so that they can, among other things, afford the checks, certification and promotion of their products.
It is vital for Veneto's economy over the next few years to establish additional tools that add value to and certify regional produce so that it stands apart from imported goods. Law 12/2001 is one tool which, if used well, may create advantages for Veneto producers. The law is being amended and aims to use bespoke regulations to certify quality products.
On one hand, product image, quality marks, services and product information need to be further improved; on the other Veneto enterprises need to be encouraged to develop "State-recognised quality systems' which not only have recognised quality marks, but also have requirements that comply with Community regulations leading to access to EU funds for rural development.
Adding value to typical products, linking product quality and production area, and safe origins are a strategic choice that many producers have to make; it is the duty of regional government to provide the information and support required to complete the quality systems that will enhance the competitiveness of Veneto businesses.

Top  Organic farming

(Note 7) In recent years, increased awareness among consumers about food and environmental safety has helped boost the popularity of organic food.
Veneto currently has 18,000 hectares devoted to organic farming, which is approximately 2% of regional UAA.
Organic food is mainly farmed on the region's plain, which is home to 69% of holdings and 61% of UAA. (Figure 4.5)
The UAA given over to organic farming in Veneto is 22% fruit-, vegetable- and wine-growing; 23% cereal crops; 31% fodder crops; 12% industrial crops; and the remainder is devoted to pastures. (Figure 4.6)
The current total of operators involved in organic farming is 1,464: 974 producers; 456 preparers; and 38 importers. (Figure 4.7)
Veneto has proved itself a reliable source of new organic-food processing businesses and has opened a host of new outlets or large-scale distributors.
Exports are a major channel for both national and regional produce. Veneto accounts for 40% of national exports, 90% of which are fruit, vegetables and wine.
Inspections on Veneto's organic farming operators are conducted by 11 of the 16 regulatory bodies set up by decree of the Ministry for Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies.
A bespoke project, Rintracciabilità e qualità ('Traceability and Quality' - part of the Inter-Regional Agriculture and Quality Plan - Law 499/99) is being used to introduce the Biobank Open Project, which will shortly provide users with an innovative region-wide system comprising a database and a list of operators, as well as computer-based inspection management.
Furthermore, Regione Veneto has used its 'Regional plan for the strengthening and development of organic farming' to identify the following sectors, ones that are adjudged to be essential to industry growth:

  • Training, dissemination and information
  • Market analysis
  • Pilot companies
  • Promotion
  • Product supply and cooperation

A range of measures are being introduced for these sectors because the market has shown considerable interest in organic products, which both guarantee an innate quality and comply with strict environmental regulations.

Top  Educational Farms Project

(Note 8) For more than five years Regione Veneto has been involved in the Progetto Fattorie Didattiche (Educational Farms Project), which aims to add value to regional identity, local economy and typical produce by using schools to create a network between producers and young consumers. This way children can rediscover the cultural and ecological value of agriculture and the countryside.
On one hand, educational farms are a way of encouraging farmers to become multifunctional so that they can add value to their activity and knowledge; on the other it aims to offer schools new and different types of learning, while also teaching children about the origins and processing of food via observation and first-hand experience.
This approach was devised and developed as part of a national food education programme: Programma Interregionale 'Comunicazione ed educazione alimentare' (Inter-Regional Plan for 'Food Communication and Education') promoted by the Ministry for Agricultural Policies and by regional governments. It involves a series of initiatives mainly geared towards schools to promote responsible behaviour as well as to raise awareness of typical agriculture and food products. Veneto's project, entitled Cultura che nutre - saperi e sapori attorno a un piatto (Nutritious culture - knowledge and flavour on a plate), was devised along national guidelines, but with a distinct theme that saw the Local Health Authorities' (ULSS) Food Hygiene and Nutrition Service (SIAN) actively involved in the food education, and professional farming organisations in the regulation of the educational farms.
The idea was based on previous school-farm projects that had been organised by the bodies, associations and farms in regions throughout Italy, mainly in Emilia Romagna and Lombardia. In 2002, a regional government work-group involving professional agricultural and agrotourism associations promoted this complex project and ran training courses for agricultural holdings that wanted to set up an educational farm. A charter for educational farm quality was also drawn up, defining the requisites and commitments for the accreditation of the region's educational farms. Only the holdings that obey the quality charter, which covers food safety, hygiene and health, logistics (indoor and outdoor areas), hospitality, education, training and refresher courses, are allowed to register on a regional list of educational farms, which is updated annually. Registered farms may display the 'Educational farms of the Regione Veneto' logo, which is designed and approved by the region (Note 9).
The current regional list of educational farms, which was updated in 2007, contains 219 holdings throughout the region. Since the list opened, the trend has been one of constant growth. (Figure 4.8) and (Figure 4.9)
The list of educational farms is posted on the regional government's website and featured in a two-yearly regional bulletin. The project is promoted in schools with teacher-training courses, which are run in conjunction with the local SIAN, and by participating in major industry fairs and events.
National safety measures, suitable areas and highly motivated staff who have been on regional training and annual refresher courses ensure lessons take place in a safe environment, both during theory lessons and observation, which take place outdoors, and during workshops, which encourage practical and manual skills specific to the age of the students.
Over the years a great deal of interest has been shown in educational farms by other sections of society, including fair-trade groups, residential care-homes, summer centres, organisations for differently able or disadvantaged people, as well as families. As a result, each year, the regional government organises an open day for educational farms which involves both schools and the general public. Now in its fifth year, Una domenica in fattoria (A Sunday on the farm) is promoted in the region's main newspapers and on local television and radio in order to raise awareness of educational farms and their courses, and of what agriculture means today. (Figure 4.10)
A survey has recently been carried out to provide a snapshot of educational farms. The survey revealed that the main aim is to raise children's awareness of agriculture and, more generally, to ensure the public know more about a farm's activity. Furthermore there is widespread interest in extending farm hospitality to a wider category of user, in particular to the elderly, differently able, and people with mental disabilities. (Figure 4.11)
The latest Rural Development Plan (R.D.P.) envisages a range of interventions (Measure 311) geared towards diversifying holdings and promoting their multifunctionality, including educational activities (incentives were also included in the previous R.D.P.). Apart from the promotional support provided by the Region, these are the only incentives available to an educational farm registered on the regional list. As the majority of farmers are keen to pass on their culture to new generations, they see this activity as a means to improving the image of their holding and, although there is no real benefit in terms of income, they are generally satisfied with the increase in income from associated activities such as agrotourism and product sales.

Top  Social agriculture: a world without borders, multifunctional agricultural holdings without limits

(Note 10) Multifunctionality is recognised at Community and national level as one of agriculture's strong points, which rural areas can use to achieve fair and sustainable development.
Agriculture is recognised as having a role in the production not only of food, but also of intangible goods geared towards the environment, conservation, landscape, history, tradition and culture of rural areas.

  • Production
  • Environmental
  • Landscape
  • Hydrogeological defence
  • Tourism/recreation
  • Conservation of rural tradition
  • Education
  • Social
  • Therapy/rehabilitation

This recognition confirms that agricultural holdings are part of a debate that started after the establishment of European strategies at the councils of Lisbon and Gothenburg, one which sees them as contributors to creating new employment, developing human capital and safeguarding the environment.
Nowadays, some new functions are a permanent feature of agricultural holdings, and their importance is recognised by the public and policy-makers alike. Evidence of this is the development of agrotourism in the hospitality and catering industry, and agricultural and environmental incentives are recognition that agriculture safeguards the environment.
Other functions, however, have not yet taken off in Italy, including social agriculture, which is a key part of multifunctionality. Social agriculture has not even been given a suitable definition.
It is still not agreed whether social agriculture refers merely to agricultural activity carried out by a social enterprise, as governed by skeleton law no. 118/2005 and by Legislative Decree no. 155/2006, or to a wider scenario in which an agricultural holding provides social services.
Over the last thirty years, research and experimentation have demonstrated that agriculture, with its slow, rhythmic biological cycles of crops and livestock and its relationship with the environment, can perform a key role in the treatment and rehabilitation of people with physical, mental and behavioural difficulties, as well as in the vocational reintegration of the socially disadvantaged.
These, however, are simply one aspect of social agriculture. Educational farms are also important because they are open-air workshops that provide inspiration and logistics support to teachers, thus enabling generations of young people to gain first-hand experience of agriculture and to learn about the environment and food. Likewise some agricultural holdings have started to offer early-years services alongside those offered by the public sector, which is not always able to meet demand with the result that women find it difficult reconcile their work with motherhood.
Social agriculture is a new aspect of multifunctional agricultural holdings that also enables local development to be combined with economic and social policies, ones that are rarely interlinked.
Educational farms and social farms are a key tool and opportunity for development with many qualities that will enable them to go from strength to strength over the next few years. They have been further benefited by receiving a special mention in the National Strategic Plan for Rural Development 2007-2013 and in the Ministry of Health's plan for 2006 Guadagnare salute (Gaining health).

  • Local cultural policies: tool to promote integration between the social, economic, technical, political and cultural domains of agriculture;
  • Innovative school education policies: opportunities to discover the countryside and environment through knowledge and hands-on experience and to promote relations between schools and countryside.

  • Local social policies: tool to promote integration between the social, economic, technical, political and cultural domains of the environment;
  • innovative integration policies: opportunities to promote the number and quality of local services by identifying alternatives to welfare.

The support of Measure 311 (Diversification of agricultural activities) in Veneto's R.D.P. 2007-2013 is one step towards developing social agriculture, which will help achieve one of the strategic objectives of rural development policy: improving quality of life.
Social farms can combine their primary business with essential services to the rural population, not only in marginal areas where services for the weakest categories tend to be poor, but also in urban centres where demand for early-years services is higher.
In its R.D.P. 2000-2006, Regione Veneto had already defined social farms as 'agricultural enterprises, in accordance with Legislative Decree no. 228/2001, which provide social activities for differently able people'.
The R.D.P. 2007-2013 takes the relationship between agriculture and social activity further by placing agricultural enterprises in a category that provides well-defined social services, which are illustrated in Regional Decree no. 84/2007.
Enterprises must always provide these services in conjunction with their primary business and can therefore give their products added value, increasing their appeal to the type of people who are interested in ethical issues (the type of people who would purchase fair trade products, for example).
In this way, social farms can become agricultural enterprises open to all, turning difficulty into competition, and thus branching into at least two new markets:

  • social services
  • ethical agricultural products.

This will promote both reputation, turning holdings into meeting places, and economic sustainability.

  • Open to local and non-local communities
  • Farm product sales outlet, fair trade, education, occasions to get together, food and drink outlets, agrotourism hospitality
  • Strengthening reputation and economic sustainability

Top  Rural Development Plan for Veneto 2007-2013

(Note 11) When the European Commission approved Veneto's Rural Development Plan (R.D.P.) 2007-2013 in October 2007, it was the end of a long, complex phase of finalising and negotiation. In one way or another, the plan involves the majority of entrepreneurs and operators in Veneto's agricultural, food and agriculture, and forestry sectors, as well as major regional institutions and all rural areas in Veneto.
In accordance with the requirements of Regulation (EC) no.1698/2005 on the support of rural development by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD), the R.D.P. is to be implemented throughout Veneto according to the characteristics of each individual area. This means that the plan will be introduced with different methods and at different speeds as per Community and national classifications of the areas involved.
The R.D.P. describes Veneto's rural areas in such a way as to highlight the hallmarks of Veneto's development model, especially regarding the central plain area (B-rural area for intensive specialised farming) which affords an interesting insight into the problems and requirements of the progressive and widespread urbanisation taking place there. The distinguishing features of Veneto's development model mean that close attention is required when evaluating some of the specific effects of demographic and urban development, particularly with regard to its central strip (macro-type 'rural area for intensive specialised farming') which is divided into two sub-areas: B1, which has mainly rural-urbanised characteristics; and B2 which has mainly urbanised characteristics. These differentiations are made in order to highlight different aspects of the territory, as well as the social and economic aspects that are associated with different levels of 'rurality'. (Figure 4.12)
In order to guarantee the sustainable development of rural areas, the R.D.P. focuses on a restricted number of objectives which are considered priorities at Community level. These objectives, set out in 3 Axes, cover the competitiveness of the agricultural and forestry sectors; countryside and environment management; and quality of life and diversification of the rural economy. A fourth Leader Axis is geared towards local development and inter-territorial cooperation.

General objectives

in particular
  • Axis 1 - Improving the competitiveness of the agricultural and forestry sectors contributes to rural development by supporting restructuring, development and innovation. All intervention is specifically geared towards improving and consolidating the different components that make Veneto's agricultural and forestry sectors competitive. These measures are to be used to promote awareness and development of human capital, restructure and develop physical capital, promote innovation, as well as improve quality of both production and agricultural produce.
  • Axis 2 - Improving the environment and countryside is the second objective for rural development and involves 'adding value to the environment and countryside by supporting territory management'. Management must comprise methods of agricultural and forestry use that are compatible with the requirements of both the environment and the landscape, as well as protect natural resources, thus strengthening and safeguarding all features of the countryside. To achieve this, the main priority objectives at Community level are to be implemented. These objectives entail implementing Natura 2000 Network; maintaining the commitments undertaken in Gothenburg to reverse the decline of biodiversity; achieving both the objectives of Directive 2000/60/EC, which establishes a Community water framework, and those of the Kyoto Protocol governing biodiversity, the conservation and development of agricultural and forestry systems, as well as the traditional farming landscape, water regime, and climate change.
  • Axis 3 - Diversification of the rural economy and Quality of life in rural areas provides support geared towards diversifying the economy, improving quality of life in rural areas and making the countryside a more attractive place to live and work, especially by encouraging agricultural holdings to become multifunctional and to extend their business towards innovative public goods and services.
  • Axis 4 - Leader is a methodological approach geared towards implementing local development strategies that will also contribute directly to Axes 1, 2 and 3. It is essential to the horizontal priority of improving governance and mobilising potential for endogenous development in rural areas.

A project approach is used as a major tool to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of upcoming intervention for rural development. The objective is to ensure wider, comprehensive solutions for the recurrent problems of a lack of interaction between supply-chain actors and poor development of entrepreneurial attitudes in business management.
In general, the R.D.P. will take a project approach, which entails in-depth evaluation of growth requirements, while ensuring competitive improvement, in order to devise a comprehensive range of strategies for individual enterprises, as well as for wider contexts such as sectors, supply chains, and local areas.
Consequently, integration and aggregation need to be encouraged in individual enterprises, supply chains and local areas, something that can be achieved by promoting joint projects, in particular integrated supply-chain projects, integrated-area projects, and the Youth Package.
As support for this wide and articulate framework of objectives and interventions, the R.D.P. envisages major funding, i.e. 914,675,000 euros, which will enable a total investment of 1,505,047,977 euros. The huge financial resources devoted to the four Axes and individual measures are a clear indication as to the general scale of the priorities and hierarchies identified for rural development in Veneto. (Table 4.2) and (Figure 4.13)

Top  Food safety

(Note 12) Nowadays, food and its associated problems are part of European citizens' daily interests and worries. The safety of goods destined for human consumption has become a major strategic objective within the European Union; for thirty years, Community agricultural policy was characterised by exasperated productivism which, for many years, privileged quantity over quality and a quest for profits, with an indiscriminate use of chemicals and the intensive, careless exploitation of land and livestock. A number of episodes, including BSE and dioxin in chickens, has contributed to a major loss of confidence by the public, one reinforced by a growing demand for greater guarantees and controls of the agricultural and food-and-agriculture supply chain.
Food safety does not merely mean obeying regulations; more importantly it entails offering consumers guarantees that enable them to purchase food without having to worry, where food is a balance between quality, flavour and price and the result of a healthy and environmentally friendly production process.
The path towards food safety must involve the active participation of all the actors within the food-supply chain, including the consumer.
The EU's white book on food safety stresses the importance of a 'complete and integrated approach', which means considering the entire food chain 'from field to fork'. The Community regulations comprising the hygiene package are designed to simplify and update legislation within the food hygiene sector and to extend Europe's health and safety policy to all production phases. They include Regulation (EC) no. 882/04, which governs the official inspections to check conformity with the regulations on feed and food, and on animal health and welfare.
Ensuring food safety in Italy is mainly the responsibility of the central and local offices of the Ministry of Health and the local departments of the Autonomous Regions and Provinces of Trento and Bolzano.
Official inspections on food and drink aim to ensure that these products conform with all public health and safety regulations in order to protect consumers and guarantee transparent production processes. These inspections are conducted on both Italian and foreign products on sale in Italy, as well as on Italy's exported goods.
Official inspections cover all phases of production, processing, storage, transport, sale and administration. They encompass checks, taking samples, laboratory analysis, hygiene and personnel checks, written and printed documents, a company's inspection systems and their results. 
The Ministry of Health is responsible for planning, setting policy, and coordinating these official inspections. At regional level, inspections are coordinated by health departments, while checks on the production, sale and administration of food and drink are the responsibility of the Municipalities, which use their Local Health Authorities.
A Community Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed, a network involving the European Commission and the EU Members States, has been set up to warn consumers if there are any risks to food and drink, or to animal feed.
These rapid communications, which have become more common in recent years, are an essential tool for evaluating risk and safeguarding consumers.
The Rapid Alert System envisages the withdrawal of any products deemed dangerous for the health of humans or animals. If there is a serious and immediate risk, police and regional health departments are authorised to impound products immediately. This emergency procedure may also be combined with a press release.
If products are faulty or suspect, then they can be traced back to the producer or distributor. Deliveries can also be traced via production batch numbers so that any products put on sale can be withdrawn rapidly if necessary.
In Veneto, the hygiene package came into force on 1 January 2006, and regional departments inspect food of animal origin, food of non-animal origin, fish products and water quality.
Also in force is the three-year plan for food safety, which organises surveillance and prevention.
The plan is divided into 5 main sections: surveillance; registration and information systems; risk communication; water control; and nutrition.
Since 2002, Veneto has had an animal husbandry register which collects information about all local livestock farms. This information goes into a regional database which is part of a wider national one. These figures are the starting point for inspections for infectious diseases.
Regarding cattle (Note 13) it has been established that the competent authority for each Member State is responsible for inspecting at least 5% of their cattle farms in order to ensure the regulations on cattle identification are being obeyed. (Figure 4.14)
In 2006, more than 10% of Veneto livestock farms were inspected. Less than 7% of these were found to be irregular in some way.
Inspections for infectious diseases
Community Directive 97/12/EC governs the inspection of all livestock farms that produce milk in order to eradicate (Note 14) the main infections that affect livestock, the economy and public health (e.g. tuberculosis, brucellosis, and leukosis). Furthermore, a declaration will be released for 'officially free areas'. This declaration is based on the prevalence of infection, the official inspection of all local farms, and the maintenance of a percentage of 'officially free' farms: 99.9% for TBC and 99.8% for bovine brucellosis. Figures are calculated on 31 December each year. This standard must be maintained for a period of six and five years respectively. By declaring that an area is 'officially free', the EU is setting an extremely high standard, one much higher than simply trying to maintain the numbers of infected animals below a certain level each year.
For the three-year period 2004-2006, Regione Veneto set itself the task of becoming an area officially free of TBC and bovine brucellosis in accordance with the Community norm.
One-hundred percent of the livestock farms subject to the plan were inspected over the three-year period.
Bovine tuberculosis
Since 1997, less than 0.1% of cattle have been diagnosed with tuberculosis. Consequently, routine regional inspections have taken place once every two years since 2002, in accordance with Directive 97/12/EC.
Over the last six years, the percentage of officially free farms has reached the benchmark of 99.9%. If this figure is maintained, and 100% of bovine livestock are inspected, an 'officially free region' declaration will be issued shortly in accordance with Directive 97/12/EC.
On 20 March 2007, Commission Decision no. 174 declared that the provinces of Belluno and Padova were officially free of bovine tuberculosis.
Between 2004 and 2005 Veneto had six and five tuberculosis outbreaks respectively; no outbreaks occurred in 2006.
Bovine brucellosis
As with tuberculosis, the number of cattle that need to be inspected for bovine brucellosis has decreased. The percentage of livestock farms checked in the three-year period 2004-2006 reached 100%, in accordance with the conditions of the National eradication plan, which requires the inspection of all livestock farms.
There were no outbreaks of bovine brucellosis during the three-year period 2004-2006.
In accordance with Directive 97/12/EC, a range of requirements need to be met and maintained for a region to be declared officially free. On the basis of these requirements and the results of the National eradication plan, the entire Veneto was officially declared brucellosis-free with Decision no. 174 of 20 March 2007.
Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE)
In order to deal with the BSE emergency, the European Community implemented Regulation (EC) 999/2001 with subsequent amendments and integrations, which requires each Member State to adopt an active BSE surveillance system. Set up in 2001, the regulation envisaged a systematic examination of the brainstem of any at-risk bovines (emergency slaughter and fallen stock) and regularly slaughtered bovines. This plan covered not only animals showing clinical symptoms of illness (passive surveillance), but also regularly slaughtered animals aged over 24 months and bovines at risk of BSE (active surveillance).
The new strategy, based on active surveillance, has been made possible thanks to rapid tests, which highlighted Italy's first home-grown cases of BSE. These tests enable preclinical diagnosis of the illness in animals aged over 24 months and are used in conjunction with the diagnosis already being used in passive surveillance. (Table 4.3)
Ensuring livestock is protected
There is growing demand among consumers that animals destined for human consumption are treated well. This stems from an increasing awareness that protecting animal welfare contributes, directly and indirectly, to healthy, quality products. Consequently, the normative apparatus and the agricultural system have to adapt accordingly.
In response to this requirement, the number of EU norms on animal welfare has increased in recent years. Current legislation is based on the Convention of Strasbourg, which Italy ratified with Law no. 623/1985.
The first Community directives on animal welfare were at the end of the 1980s; they mainly covered the protection of livestock and identified battery hens, calves (white-veal calves in particular) and swine as the highest risk categories. These animal categories were given detailed parameters covering density, micro- and macro-climate and breeding practices.
Although 'welfare' within 'breeding' may seem contradictory, a number of scientific studies have been carried out in order to provide animal welfare standards for different breeds of livestock.
It is agreed that welfare can be estimated with assessments that must be as objective as possible. The Five Freedoms of the 1965 Brambell Report are the benchmark criteria for formulating an assessment. They enable livestock animals to be respected and their quality of life improved, while safeguarding and implementing industrial decisions in the animal-husbandry sector. The Five Freedoms are: freedom from hunger and thirst by encouraging access to fresh water and a diet that keeps the animal healthy and in good physical shape; freedom from discomfort by providing a suitable environment with adequate shelter and a comfortable resting area; freedom from pain, injury and disease with the implementation of prevention systems, rapid diagnosis and treatment; freedom to express normal behaviour by providing the animal with sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal's own kind; freedom from fear and distress by ensuring conditions and treatment that avoid mental suffering.
In accordance with the Five Freedoms, Community Directive 98/58 (ratified with Legislative Decree. 146/2001) laid out the minimum requirements for livestock farms for the protection of all vertebrate animals.
Animal welfare in livestock farms is inspected mainly by the Veterinary Services of the ULSS. The regions are responsible for planning, coordinating and formulating guidelines in accordance with local conditions and the results of previous inspections.
Although regional planning and follow-up action by the Veterinary Services cover the welfare of all livestock animals, only the results of local inspections on poultry, calves and swine are sent to the Ministry of Health each year. (Table 4.4)
In 2006, inspections were carried out on 38% of calf farms, 25% of swine farms, and 75% of egg farms. Results revealed breaches in an average of one in four farms with peaks of 33% in calf farms and 14% in egg farms.
Below is a map that shows the location of the most common livestock farm types. (Figure 4.15)
The maps show that bovine livestock farms are mainly concentrated on the pre-Alps and plain areas in the provinces of Treviso and Vicenza and poultry farms in the provinces of Verona and Padova.
Inspecting animal welfare during transport
Transport is a fairly distressing experience for animals in that they are moved from their 'natural' environment, i.e. their farm or pen, where they would have developed a hierarchy and points of reference. However long the journey, it is always a time in which the animal has to adapt to changes, to a more confined environment and to closer contact with its kind.
Community and national legislation provide norms for transporting live animals within a Member State or between Member States in order to respect animal welfare by ensuring the best compromise, despite the discomfort of the journey itself. Legislation thus provides exact standards for density, micro- and macro-climate, as well as vehicle features, for each type of journey: road, sea, air or rail.
The competence and training of transporters is also of the utmost importance as they are required to keep live animals and deal with their needs and behaviour.
The ultimate goal is to limit and eliminate the problems caused by transport; any damage to livestock would not only affect the live animal, breaching current welfare legislation and causing a public outcry, but also affect the quality of products destined for human consumption, causing financial damage and health risks.
While the new regulation on animal welfare during transport is waiting to be implemented (Regulation (EC) 1/2005 - in force since 5 January 2007), current national legislation (Legislative Decree 532/1992 and subsequent amendments and integrations) already provides Italy's Veterinary Offices (Uffici Veterinari per gli Adempimenti CEE, or UVAC) and ULSS with the competences to monitor and inspect the methods used to transport animals:

  • The ULSS carry out non-discriminatory routine inspections within their jurisdiction, proceeding if necessary with the adoption of all suitable measures, including sanctions.
  • The Veterinary Offices (UVAC) (Note 15) deal with inspections carried out during the transportation of live animals between Member States. Nevertheless they are also authorised to inspect animal shipments directly, as well as take any suitable measures should they deem it fit or be instructed to do so by the Ministry of Health.

By virtue of their local competences, the UVAC and the Regions mainly plan, set policy, and coordinate the activities of the ULSS.
Each year, Regione Veneto collects the results of official UVAC inspections on animal welfare during transport and reports them in a Community table in accordance with the instructions of the Ministry of Health.
Food inspections
Food for human consumption is inspected and monitored by the Veterinary Services and SIAN16, which are part of the Prevention departments of Veneto's ULSS.
The most important guarantees for food safety are governed by HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point). These preventative measures are performed by facility owners on production and sales areas in accordance with 'Good Hygiene Practice Manuals' in order to ensure food safety and hygiene throughout Europe, as per EU Directives no. 43/1993, 99/1993 and 3/1996.
ISO 9000 standards envisage, however, an organisation system within certified companies based on activity inspection tools and records of the results. Not only does ISO 9000 simplify the work of inspection bodies, it is also helps companies to improve the quality of their production and/or distribution system. 
Legislative Decree no. 155/1997 establishes general standards for food hygiene and the methods to inspect whether these standards are being met. It is based on the same concepts as ISO 9000 and HACCP, which are included in the law, and illustrates what is meant by hygiene in each phase; appoints safety managers; explains how to withdraw at-risk products from sale; and also how to warn other European states.
The Veterinary Services deal mainly with inspecting establishments that process products of animal origin such as meat, fish, eggs, milk and by-products (e.g. slaughterhouses, butchers, delicatessens, etc.); the SIAN is responsible for inspecting establishments that process, produce and administrate products of non-animal origin, both wholesale and retail, as well as institutional and public catering businesses.
In 2006, inspections were carried out on almost 80% of Veneto's establishments that process products of animal origin, with an average of four types of inspection per establishment (personnel, environment, etc.). Less than 1% revealed breaches, mainly in hygiene and labelling; almost all resulted in administrative measures being taken. Food samples taken from these establishments revealed a similar number of irregularities, which were also lower than 1%.
Inspections on almost 17,000 restaurants and establishments that process products of non-animal origin revealed that most breaches involved hygiene (inadequate personnel training, non-compliance with HACCP, etc.), and administrative measures were taken. (Table 4.5)
Breaches were revealed for 0.3% of the total number of establishments inspected, of which less than 5% resulted in measures being taken. (Table 4.6)
More detailed analysis of the 14,000 plus food samples taken during inspections reveals that irregularities were discovered in 1.4% of cases.
Twenty-one types of food were inspected: seven were free of irregularities, or had one at most. These included eggs and egg products, ice-cream and desserts, tea preparations, coffee and spices. (Table 4.7)
Water inspections
The SIAN is also responsible for official inspections on water destined for human consumption. It is required to inspect the various types of water available to the public: tap water, mineral water, treated water, etc.. These inspections are conducted to ensure that what we ingest, wherever it comes from, does not contain substances or micro-organisms that are dangerous to our health.
The environments inspected are: mains water; supply sources of public aqueducts (wells and sources); surface water for the production of drinking water; and bottled water.
In 2006, 179 water-drilling licences were granted in Veneto, and these covered a range of uses. (Table 4.8)
The amount of water extracted was 25,769,550 m3/year; of the water destined for human consumption, the ULSS, which are responsible for samples in Veneto, tested 9,676 units from 4,077 sample points. Water tests covered a range of analyses, including microbiological, chemical and accessory ones (e.g. tests for algae and bacteria). The chemical tests resulted 99% favourable and microbiological tests 98% favourable.
Shellfish-culture inspections
Inspections on shellfish-culture mainly involved issuing Community certificates for establishments dealing with the production, processing, storage and sale of seafood (shellfish and fish products). Supervision and inspections are carried out by ULSS.
In 2006, there were 231 lagoon and sea farms breeding live bivalve shellfish, which overall produced an annual average of 40,000 tonnes. (Table 4.9)
Official inspections encompass chemical, biotoxicological, microbiological and parassitological analysis, as well as inspections on the physical parameters of water and the presence of potentially toxic phytoplankton. Inspections were carried out on 64 lagoon farms and 31 sea farms. In 2006, 20 licences were suspended for microbiological breaches and 23 for biotoxicological breaches.

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  1. Markets where farmers sell their produce directly to the public.
  2. Institute of Services for the Food and Agriculture Market (ISMEA) - 2004
  3. Agricultural holdings are divided by type of activity: crop farming and animal farming.
    To establish a farm's principal activity, the extent of each activity is calculated as a share of the overall output. The results are then compared with preset indices that identify the type of farming from a list of types.
  4. The EU universe excludes very small holdings or ones that sell products for a value of less than 2,066 euros.
  5. This figure represents the volume of labour performed by workers in the production process: it is the quantity of labour performed in one year by one full-time worker and is equal to 280 eight-hour days.
  6. Edited by Alessandra Scudeller and Giuseppe Catarin, Direzione Produzioni Agroalimentari, Regione Veneto
  7. Edited by Pierluigi Perissinotto, Direzione Produzioni Agroalimentari, Regione Veneto
  8. Edited by Elena Schiavon, Direzione promozione turistica integrata, Regione Veneto
  9. Educational farms are not governed by national legislation; regulation is at regional level and is in force in Emilia Romagna, Lombardia, Abruzzo, Veneto, Campania, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Umbria, Liguria and Sardegna.
  10. Edited by Giorgio Trentin, Direzione agroambiente e servizi per l'agricoltura, Regione Veneto
  11. Edited by Walter Signora, Direzione piani e programmi settore primario, Regione Veneto
  12. Edited by Piero Vio and Michele Brichese, Unità di progetto sanità animale e igiene alimentare, Regione Veneto
  13. Commission Regulation 1082/2003 dated 23 June 2003 and subsequent amendments.
  14. Eliminate the infection completely after an outbreak has been detected.
  15. Regarding animals and products of animal origin from an EU country, only non discriminatory random inspections are allowed. In order to carry out these inspections, Italy has set up Uffici Veterinari per gli Adempimenti Comunitari (UVAC), which are under the Ministry of Health.
  16. Servizio Igiene Alimenti e Nutrizione (Food Hygiene and Nutrition Service)

Figure 4.1
Average UAA per type of farming. Veneto - Year 2005
Figure 4.2
Production value per Agricultural Labour Unit - Year 2005
Figure 4.3
Protected Designation of Origin (D.O.P.) and Protected Geographical Indication (I.G.P.) products from Veneto. Veneto - Year 2007
Table 4.1
Wine production per quality type (hectolitres). Veneto - Years 2004-2007
Figure 4.4
Wine exports per region - Year 2007
Figure 4.5
Number of agricultural holdings involved in organic farming in Veneto municipalities - Year 2006
Figure 4.6
Distribution of organic fruit and vegetable crops. Veneto - Year 2006
Figure 4.7
Number of operators involved in organic farming. Veneto - Years 1960-2006
Figure 4.8
Number of educational farms on the Regional list of educational farms in Veneto per province - Year 2007
Figure 4.9
Educational farms on the Regional list of educational farms. Veneto - Years 2003-2007
Figure 4.10
Number of farms involved in the open day for educational farms in Veneto - Years  2003-2007
Figure 4.11
Main reasons behind educational farms in Veneto - Year 2006
Figure 4.12
Regional territory: classification of rural areas (left) and sub-categorisation of rural area B for intensive specialised farming (right)
Table 4.2
R.D.P. funding 2007-2013 - Veneto
Figure 4.13
R.D.P. public funding (millions of euros) per Axis. Veneto - Comparison 2007-2013/2000-2006
Figure 4.14
Number of inspections conducted per Local Health Authority (ULSS) on cattle and buffalo farms, and irregularities discovered - Veneto. Year 2006
Table 4.3
Number of samples for BSE inspections in Veneto - Years 2005 and 2006
Table 4.4
Results of inspections on livestock farms. Veneto - Year 2006
Figure 4.15
Georeferencing of bovine and poultry farms. Veneto - Year 2005
Table 4.5
Official inspection of food products - Establishments inspected by type. Veneto - Year 2006
Table 4.6
Official inspection of food products - Breaches revealed by type and measures taken. Veneto - Year 2006
Table 4.7
Official inspection of food products - Analysis of samples inspected and breaches revealed by type. Veneto - Year 2006
Table 4.8
Number of water licences by type of use. Veneto - Year 2006
Table 4.9
Production of live bivalve shellfish by environment and type. Veneto - Year 2006
Chapter 4 in figures
Chapter 4 in figures

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