mercoledì 21 gennaio 2009

Youth and Agriculture

In the USA they are celebrating the beginning of a new era with President Obama, who, among others, shows the peculiarity being particularly young.

On the contrary in Italy "gerontocracy" is a typical feature of our society at any level and sector: politics, economy, culture, university, etc. Unfortunately italian agriculture suffers the same problem as well.

It is true that the scarce presence of young farmers is a problem affecting the Euroepan Union as a whole: the average farmers' age in the EU-15 is about 56 years - it means an age when in other economic sectors people usually get retired. Young farmers (less than 35 years) cover a 6.4% in EU-15 showing little increases when considering data for EU-25.

Within this scenario, Italy shows difficult conditions: less than 4% among italian farmers are under 35. In Italy farmers' age is so high that (maybe just jumping an entire generation) their successors are already too old.

This situation results from multiple causes among which an excessive farm fragmentation. In Italy resources to support young farmers in their activities and stimulate the birth of new "young" farms are an urgent need. In the same time, it is important to cancel or at least reduce those fiscal privileges to false farms: effective and efficient controls are thus necessary to solve this kind of problem which acts as a real entrance barrier for young farmers.

Furthermore, in Italy we have the dramatic problem of the difficult relations between farmers and bureaucracy requiring a lot of time and money generating also mistrust towards public institutions. If someone intends to become a farmer, above all if a young man/woman, he /she has to cope with a heap of problems. Young people are bureaucracy's best victims: some researches have highlighted that they have to submit a 23 kg pile of documents: forms, invoices, authorizations, certificates, permits, licenses, etc. to be added to neverending queues, explanation requests, useless training courses (maybe useful only to the courses' organizations), technical surveys, too many days spent in the banks, in the administrative or post offices, etc. If a young farmers can resist to this, he has then to cope with the administrative problems related to farm management (further documents, licenses, forms, taxes, reports, etc.). Additional problems arise for those opting for organic agriculture where controls, authorizations, tests, forms are even more complicated.

The consequences of the lack of young farmers in italian agriculture may involve different levels: young farmers are naturally more inclined to innovation (it is extremely difficult to talk about techological innovation to a 80 years old farmer, believe me!). Furthermore, if lacking a generation change, a progressive abandoning of land will be an unavoidable process with relavant economic, social and environmental effects for many rural areas in Italy.

At present an Observatory for Young Farmers is available in Italy (in italian language only) contacting the following link.

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