FEATURES » Milking the system in Italy

Milking the system in Italy

In Italy some people are shrewder than others, but not in a good way.

Dishonest acts, usually related to tax payment are quite frequent and usually honest taxpayers have to foot the bill.

To prevent this the European commission has intervened  in the case of the milk quota as dairy companies have exceeded EU milk production limits over a period of 15 years.

The case concerns fines imposed on Italian dairies between 1995 and 2009 for exceeding strict annual EU production quota, fixed under the Common Agricultural Policy.

The milk quota system was created to limit the overproduction of Milk in the EU. Every state has an established production limit. If that limit is exceeded a fine has to be paid.

From 1995 to 2009 the Italian State has paid part of the exceeding quota not paid by the farms. Now Italy must recover by milk producers 1.4 billion Euros. The EU has forbidden the state intervention so that the burden shall fall upon those who violated the rules, not the taxpayers.

The Italian milk quota has been very controversial as the amount of the shares allocated was considered lower than the national consumption. The State paid part of the quota and so encouraged farmers to increase production without regard to the fines. In 1995 at the European level arose the case of the illegality of the State aid, considered an illegal aid, detrimental to the interests of other member countries. 

In 1996, when the Italian Government, led by Romano Prodi tried to make farmers respect the quota, the COBAS was created, a spontaneous committee of dairy farmers, often in direct conflict with the National Unions of Farmers (Coldiretti, Confagricoltura, CIA) aligned with the Government. 

According to Coldiretti: there are about two thousand producers who have not complied with the shares. 600 of them would have to pay about 30 thousand Euros each while 38,000 Italian farmers paid regularly and they can’t be penalized for this.

It is time to resolve the issue with respect for those who have complied with the rules. According to the EU it is necessary to repay the amounts due to the State Budget, to avoid that the consequences fall on Italian taxpayers, but also to avoid unfair competition with other Italian and European manufacturers.

Giulia Lombardo

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