In 1993, the year of implementation of EU Regulation 2092/91, the four operating certifying bodies at the time were using their own private standards. Since then only AIAB has maintained standard development as a priority, including standards on plant and animal production, wild products, baked goods, winemaking, and bee keeping. However, when the organic movement exploded in the mid 1990s, even AIAB allowed its private standard and certification program to lose importance. Instead, priority was given to guiding the public authorities in the implementation the EU Regulation.
When this took place in 1992-93, the Ministry of Agriculture as the Competent Authority centralized representation, accreditation, and vigilance over private control bodies. That move created a two-year fight between regional and national public administrations that was only solved in 1995, when a legislative act officially involved both levels of administration and anticipated the EU Regulation’s new UNI-En 45011 accreditation criteria for certification bodies. Nowadays, the Ministry of Agriculture uses a committee composed of national and regional officials who make accreditation decisions.The regional government shave competence for vigilance over the private control and certification bodies. Decisions on third country imports are made at the central administration level. Although the decentralization has had positive effects, the system is extremely burdensome for the operators and the certification bodies. Different or even conflicting interpretations of the rule are not uncommon.
Some Ministry research institutions have been involved in setting up advisory committees on EU Regulation IIB and IIA annexes, and on organic animal husbandry, involving personnel from central and regional public administration as well as representatives from general farmer and consumer associations and from the organic movement.
In 2000, three certifying bodies were IFOAM-accredited, and in 2006 there were five. The Italian IFOAM Accredited CBs recently developed a common certification standard (Italian Organic Standard,) which was the first to be approved by IFOAM. These standards reflect both the IFOAM Basic Standard and the EU Regulation. Most of the largest certifying bodies are accredited under EN 45011 (ISO 65) by Sincert, the Italian authority for accreditation.
Organic agriculture policy The boom in organic farms and agricultural land during the late 1990s was broadly driven by the support policy under EU regulation 2078/92. It was implemented in most of the regions, and at least to extensive, traditional farmers provided a good incentive to convert to organic farming. In 2000, with the Green Minister of Agriculture, a national target was set: ‘10% of all agricultural land converted to organic by 2005’. A promotional campaign was launched for organic products in 2001 with a budget of about 7.25 million € and financed by a new 2% tax on synthetic pesticides. A national committee for organic agriculture was established with a consultative purpose for legislative actions and for defining national strategies for the development of organic farming.
With the Berlusconi government, which came into office in 2001, the 10% goal was forgotten, and funding for the agro-environment regional plans and the new EU rural development program became more selective in favor of market-oriented farms. This took many extensive and marginal farms out of organic production. The general economic crisis heavily affected consumption patterns in 2004, and some large retailers reduced their investments in organic. Luckily, the growing public sector market and the good quality appeal of organic products in export markets kept a lot of organic farmers in the system despite their having lost the EU payments.
The new government (spring 2006), in which the Greens are back, has shown some interest and understanding of the importance of the sector. The main government support to organic farming was in regional Agri-environmental programs, still often giving priority to market-oriented farms through higher support premiums and support for marketing initiatives and certification costs. In some regions there is competition between the premiums for organic and for more general ‘sustainable’ systems (e.g. IPM -integrated pest management), while in others substantial priority is given to organic farming.
Case Studies in Italy
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