I have written before about how successful farming takes a community. Without networks, farming would be practically impossible.
A critical part of my network here is the local chapter of the national farmer’s association — Confagricoltura.
And so I was honored when they asked me a couple of weeks ago to serve as one of the three Vice Presidents of the Grosseto chapter.
The current President is focusing on bringing young farmers who directly manage farm business onto the board as part of a strategy to address the number of political, market, and climate challenges that we face. A number of my fellow young farmers are on the board with me.
I depend on the Grosseto Confagricoltura for a variety of different services. They act like Farm Service Agency/Rural Development/Natural Resources Conservation Service offices do in the U.S. and submit all of my subsidy applications, grant applications to rural development programs, and applications to conservation programs.
They provide assistance when there are government inspections, and provide updates and assistance on compliance with government farm regulations.
I also rely on them for all of my employee contracts and paychecks.
They also act as an impartial third-party in contract negotiations and can underwrite contracts.
In short, they help me with a huge chunk of the paperwork (not related to organic certification) that is part of farming.
Confagricoltura Grosseto is, above all, a network of farmers. I rely on the network for everything from advice on which tractor is better, to which mechanic to trust, to prices and market opportunities.
Confagricoltura Grosseto also provides support on local supply chain projects and runs a farmer co-op for the production of certain commodities.
The young farmer’s association that I belong to is the young farmer’s association of Confagricoltura.
The association is a critical part of the agricultural community and economy in the area.
The Farmer Association Landscape in Italy
Like in the U.S., in Italy there are a few main farmer associations at the national level that provide services and represent farmers politically.
The differences among the three associations are based primarily on historical differences in type and structure of farm, and political affiliation.
The Confagricoltura membership is more often than not larger farms. By Italian standards, we run a big farm that has a variety of different sub-businesses (crop production, animal husbandry, agritourism, and conservation and forest land mangement). Confagricoltura provides the services for the size and complexity of our farm.
The other two associations are specialized in providing services for smaller farms with less complex business structures.
The political affiliation is hard to translate because what is considered center-right in Italy can be more accurately described as left in the U.S. Italy also has a parliamentary system instead of the U.S.’s two-party system, so a direct translation would be inaccurate.
In national politics, Confagricoltura tends to be the more conservative of the three organizations, but it has an alliance with the farther-left of the other two associations on many issues. So it’s not really a clear-cut situation.
I’m excited to have the opportunity to serve in a role locally that I hope will help develop the agricultural economy here.
— Ariane Lotti