‘Giorgia, listen to us!’:Italy’s farmers call on Meloni for help

By Thomson Reuters Feb 15, 2024 | 9:19 AM

ROME (Reuters) – Italian farmers descended on central Rome on Thursday to call on Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni to offer more help to them and block European Union policies they see as detrimental to their industry.

Farmers are taking to the streets across Europe, including in Poland, France and Germany, to protest against low prices for produce, rising costs, cheap imports and constraints from EU measures against climate change.

A group gathered in the Michelangelo-designed Piazza del Campidoglio, home to Rome’s city hall, for a noisy protest featuring cowbells and banners, including one reading “Giorgia, listen to us!”

Farmers are a key constituency for Meloni’s right-wing coalition, which has a close relationship with the main sector lobby Coldiretti. But the current protests are being led by smaller groups with no such ties.

“We have no relationship with the government so far because it is not giving us help. The government is not close to us, that’s it,” said Mattia Buzzone, an 18-year-old demonstrator from Sicily.

A second protest took place later in the day close to the ancient Roman arena of the Circus Maximus, also involving a number of tractors.

Following previous demonstrations, which saw tractors drive past the Colosseum and other Roman landmarks, the government agreed to partially reintroduce a tax break that had been scrapped for 2024.

According to a draft amendment seen by Reuters, due to be approved in parliament, land income up to 10,000 euros ($10,770) will be tax exempt, and there will be a 50% discount for land income in the 10,000-15,000 euro bracket.

“We have to be rewarded, because we have a lot of taxes … we always have to count our pennies. We can’t live … sooner or later we will die,” said farmer Daniele, who declined to provide his surname.

($1 = 0.9288 euros)

(Reporting by Angelo Amante, editing by Alvise Armellini and Keith Weir)