On Friday, 8 April 2016, in the Salone dei Cinquecento in Palazzo Vecchio, Florence, the opening ceremony for the Georgofili Academy’s 263rd year took place.
President Giampiero Maracchi developed a report entitled: “Scenari del futuro” (Future Scenarios).
The opening address was made by Luca Lazzaroli, Director General of the European Investment Bank, on the topic of “Rilanciare la crescita e la competitività in Europa. L'azione della Banca Europea per gli Investimenti” (Re-Launching Growth And Competitiveness in Europe. The European Investment Bank’s Intervention)
After awarding the 2016 Antico Fattore Prize and the Prosperitati Publicae Augendae Prize, the international section of the Georgofili Academy gave special recognition to the “Manifesto dei Giovani”, a young people’s manifesto, sponsored by the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition Foundation, which contains suggestions for solving the paradoxes of the food system.
Following are some excerpts from the speech by Giampiero Maracchi, president of the Georgofili Academy.
1. The world in crisis
The starting point is to acknowledge the fact that the world is in crisis, a structural crisis that concerns climate and environment because, for twenty years, we have used more resources that those available. We have huge problems disposing of garbage and soil has lost fertility. This crisis has also been determined by the unbalanced relationship between urban and rural centers: just think of Shanghai, with its 25 million people. Besides the environmental crisis, there also exists a serious political crisis for which the classical scheme of politics controlling the economy has been inverted with multinationals now in control. Added to this is a crisis of values. In fact, a totally free market does not work. An over-dependence on oil and the wars for oil have disastrous consequences that are there for all to see.
2. Agriculture as the solution
According to Prof. Maracchi, agriculture can offer solutions to this general crisis. First of all, because climate change can be mitigated through less chemical and mechanical farming. Moreover, plants do not influence the increase of noxious emissions in the atmosphere, while as regards organic wastes, agriculture can be used as an important disposal system helping soil fertility. Moreover, if more people lived in rural areas, towns would have a lighter load, considering that today it is easier to live in the country thanks also to the Internet. As regards values, the rural world is more intact because it is linked to more traditional and stable systems. Therefore, a better population distribution would have positive effects.
3. Social inequalities
Giampiero Maracchi highlighted how economy has by now been transformed into finance that, by definition, is non-productive. Industrial and agricultural production is diminishing in developed countries while financialization is increasing, with wealth of few multiplying. In 1980, the CEO-to-worker pay ratio was 46 to 1; it is now 350 to 1. The U.S. Department of State’s data say that 20% of families in the southern US are under the poverty level, while the European average is around 15%. This is made worse by the fact that immigration is not being managed at all. For this reason, poverty is bound to increase.
4. Fair income for farmers
In Prof. Maracchi’s opinion, the US does more than Europe to support agriculture. For example, Obama’s plan strongly supports a revival that places greater focus on the farmer. On the other hand, the rallying cries are clear: every family needs a farmer; the USA needs farmers. One interesting American measure is the access to income support according to price variability, i.e., a minimum base is calculated below which agricultural income must not go.
5. Agriculture in Italy
The weakness of Italian agriculture depends on the fact that it is insufficient for up to 50% of the products. This means that if borders were closed, there would not be enough food! In contrast to us, England has tackled the problem of domestic food security. Moreover, there has been a decrease in cultivable lands. Other weaknesses are the low export percentages, notwithstanding the high number of PDOs and PGIs. Then there are the costs for transportation and electricity. In Italy, all these weaknesses are combined with the fragmentation of farms. Out of every 100 euros paid by the consumer, only 3 euros go to the farmer, who is the one running the greater risks. Either this income problem - similar to the one affecting artisans - is resolved or farms will close.
6. the Georgofili Academy’s current role
Prof. Maracchi concluded by pointing out that the Georgofili Academy can play a very important role in this negative scenario. First of all, it can assist in restoring appropriate, shared technical information. Acting as a catalyst between the university world and the various trade associations, the Georgofili Academy can gather information to take stock of the state of ongoing research, even directing it to where it is most needed. For example, there is need for research on farm income.
Photo 1: the Academy’s council
Photo 2: President Maracchi speaking to a large audience
Photo 3: International Section President Pasca Raymondo giving recognition to the “Manifesto dei Giovani”