The story of our neighbour Loris’s farm - continued ...
Factories are closing and the surplus labour that once went to work in industry is now stuck on the land. Children that would once have left the farm for greener pastures and fields anew now remain at home with their parents. As family size grows, these young people are pushed to enlarge the amount of land that the family farms. Of farm machinery there is excess capacity, so they search out fields to rent. Land is not for sale as retired farmers hold onto the land in order to receive the CAP (Common Agriculture Policy) payments. The increased competition for land is stressing Loris. Over recent time, Loris had arrived at a settled number of retired farmers and their descendants that he rented land from. An informal "gentleman’s agreement" operated to prevent poaching of land to rent between the existing farmers. But the introduction of extra labour into the rural economy has upset this agreement and the new entrants, motivated by need and, probably, desperation, have no fear in attempting to poach fields from other farmers, such as Loris, by offering slightly better rents to the owners. The cake is not getting bigger but it is being sliced more finely and Loris is feeling the pinch.
And another change has occurred which has affected, profoundly, Loris’s feeling of financial security. Ten years ago Loris looked at his large house, barns and workshops and saw a capital investment that at the end, or in the case of some unforeseen negative event, could be turned into a generous cash sum to guarantee his future financial security. But in the last year the market in housing and farm buildings has frozen. It is clear that there was historic massive over-building of the small-holder farms. Now there are too many farm buildings attached to too little land. The buildings are old and expensive to maintain, the houses uninsulated and expensive to heat in the winter . Loris can not envision anyone wanting to buy his farm as a whole. The best that he can foresee is selling the fields piecemeal. Suddenly, Loris has realised that he is not working to create a capital asset the value of which he will realise when he retires. Instead of value having been added to the farm in these last years, value has been taken away. The real value in Loris’s farm is in what he can earn by farming and what he will realise from the sale of the productive land that he owns when he eventually retires.
So, there are too many farmers, with too many small farms and with an extremely limited supply of land for enlargement . These farmers, unlike the previous generation, cannot respond to their straightened reality by leaving farming and moving into industry, as there is no industry, and they are without the possibility of emigration as they are tied to their farms and in any case lack the skills to emigrate and re-establish themselves in another field in another country. The economic crisis in Italy in the last year has seen the reversal of the normal flow of excess labour from the countryside to the city or to industry. Lacking other possibilities, children stay at home on the farm even if it is too small to sustain them as adults. It is a disaster. And this disaster was created by State intervention that favoured the establishment of too many inefficient small farms and then, by keeping CAP payments to retired farmers and their descendants (who register themselves as farmers), ensures that land is locked down and not available to those farmers trying to farm for a living and who need to get bigger to utilise their plant more efficiently and to increase their productivity.
As Loris says, can it really be the case that in the Povoletto Council area comprising five villages, there is the need for seven combine harvesters and more than 200 tractors?
So Loris will keep on farming, carefully, and earning a living. Costs are high, but for cereals farmers prices have recently improved and forecasts are that the deleterious effects of global warming on food production and increasing world population will keep prices high and higher in the future. Where his story will finish-up he doesn’t know. But he does know that no matter how good or bad an entrepreneur he is, he doesn’t define the rules of the game. Farming in Europe is a Statist project. The terms under which it is conducted are defined by the political system. Loris runs on the treadmill that has been made for him. His father and uncles got on it and were, in the times of boom, handsomely rewarded. Those times are over and Loris has inherited the treadmill. It gives him a living but he can’t avoid the feeling that as the treadmill turns for him it inexorably slows. It seems like entropy. And it probably is.
Remembering a First Christmas, Italy
I remember something about Christmas. In that time, we had only one day for the Christmas festival: the 25th of December, the birth day of Jesus Christ and the Faithful went to Church, the Priest celebrated the mass and the Faithful had previously made the Nativity Scene that recalled the birth of Jesus Christ I also remember that the Christmas carols were very moving. I should also note as regards the Christmas festival that I remember it as being important and very nice. Also the children, everyone, on Christmas Eve put their shoes under the window on the window sill or on the floor and Father Christmas brought some presents like an apple, mandarins nuts and oranges. A few families made and decorated the Christmas tree. Underneath the tree there were some presents to give each other. To conclude I would like to give you my Regards and Best Wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Lastly, I will tell you something about the really different Christmas festival that I passed when I was in Australia. Usually everybody spent the Christmas holiday at the seaside. Because over there it was summertime. And so the weather was very hot.
Christmas many years ago. I remember awakening in the wee hours of the morning when it was still dark. I called my mother who was still asleep as I wanted immediately to check if Father Christmas had been. To my big surprise I found my first bicycle.
We were in three children when I was a child and I remember not a particular Christmas but the atmosphere of Christmas I remember that we decorated the Christmas tree using many glass balls in very different colours, and for lighting we used candles. But my mum was afraid because of the risk of fire So we lit the candles only for a short time, switching off the electric lamps and so the light was suggestive, flickering. We even made a nativity scene and we children were always discussing how to prepare it. I remember in the evening we went to bed very excited and anticipating the morning and we were full of expectations for the gifts that we would find in the morning. I don’t remember any particular gifts but I do remember the joy of the wait.
Christmas in the 50’s in Artegna. I remember the nativity scene with the moss of the woods. The Christmas tree was for rich people. I remember 24 December the midnight mass and after, at home, the warm broth and a slice of focaccia. And after to bed. I remember the presents, little things: mandarins, walnuts hazel nuts, peanuts, some chocolate and some candies. Seldom toys. For us children a wonderful festival. Christmas is today still beautiful a family festival, but ..... now already in October in the department stores there are a lot of Christmas ornaments, glitter, garlands etc. and balls, balls, and more balls! What a drag!
Christmas 1946. In that time I lived in Rome with my family before transferring to Brazil with my family. I am sick in bed because I have one of the children’s sicknesses. I am not in my usual bedroom with my brother but in another room of the house. In this room my mother has installed a very big nativity scene, as was the tradition in my family. It has a large blue sky with many little stars, little statues represented the Christmas folk like Mary, Joseph, shepherds and so on. There are many little houses and the mountains dusted with faint snow and multi coloured lights. This installation is mounted on a table and surrounded by a table-skirt. In the night I see my Daddy come in the dark into this room carrying many packets and putting them under the table-skirt. Next day is Christmas day and the packets are distributed amongst the members of my family. That magic charming atmosphere of this first Christmas was never more created in my life (perhaps because in Brazil it was summer time and too hot).
My first Christmas The time is too distant to have a lot of memory. The images that I have in my mind are not very clear. But in particular I remember the great preparation of my mother to dress, to be elegant, together with all the family. After the mass we exchanged presents. I remember well the presents under the tree to open, a great meal and sweets to have after dinner.
The memory that I have of Christmas is Christmas Eve. There was a special dinner and there were also traditional sweets. Then at midnight we went to mass. We were a large family and we had only the produce of our land to eat. My parents as a Christmas gift bought oranges and sweets. In those days, where I was born, the mountain villages were very poor. Then I got married. With my husband, I emigrated in search of work to improve our lives.
My memories of Christmas are beautiful: even if we did not have family, close friends only, because my parents when young emigrated to Venezuela there was a lot of fun, food to eat, music and gifts. I believed in the Christ Child and so I wrote letters to get what I wanted as a gift and almost always the gift arrived. We didn’t want expensive gifts because these were in other times with few needs, not like now, but we were all happy! Now there is no longer Christmas for us for when one’s child has died, one can no longer celebrate.
The story of our neighbour Loris’s farm - continued ...
Between 2007 and 2011 increasing grain prices ran concurrently with increasing energy prices. A cereals farmer in Friuli benefited more of less according to where his or her farm was located, the type of soil and how many inputs he or she used. As rising energy prices brought rising fertiliser prices, Loris had to make continuous trade-offs between reducing the application of fertilisers, thus reducing his costs but with the effect of also reducing production and thus his income. Overall, however, buoyant cereals prices and good harvests served him well but his farm was always balanced on a knife-edge: one bad harvest or a collapse in cereals prices could bring him to the brink so he started running his farm defensively, only spending when strictly necessary, conserving what he had and risking none of his income. The certain growth of the 1970’s, 1980’s and early 1990’s was just a memory and was replaced by the gnawing uncertainty of running a business that could only survive if run lean, very lean Any fat and the game would be over.
Then in 2011 a single event occurred that was to impact on his farm, and future, in a greater way than anything previously, in his time or the time of his father. In November 2011 Mario Monti was appointed Prime Minister of Italy with a completely unelected executive.
Mario Monti, although unelected, was appointed by the Italian President with the specific stated objective to liberalise the Italian economy and thereby unleash the growth that was being restrained by restrictive laws, practice and red-tape. A newly vitalised Italian economy, it was thought, would be able to outgrow its enormous public debt over time and would thus give investors in that debt the security to continue investing in the short term, at lower interest rates. Monti made little effort at liberalisation. Where liberalisation was tried, it ran-up against a stonewall of organised entrenched interests.
Without vibrant growth Italy will, without doubt leave the Euro zone and most likely default on a part of its public debt. Without liberalisation there will be no significant growth and Italy will be reconsigned to the poverty from which it came, never, in times of plenty, having created an economic environment sufficient to consign that poverty irrevocably to its past.
This last point is a fact. Italy is a dead man walking, a train flung into the abyss, a ship mortally holed below the water-line. But Monti found a panacea much more interesting for a short-term fix to the disastrous state of the Italian finances, a fix so urgent that growth, tardy to arrive and often obstructed, need not any more be considered the fulcrum of future economic health. Monti believed, and believes, as does the Bank of Italy and the Treasury (economic ministry) and almost every expert in Italy and beyond that a massive slab of Italian GDP is in the black economy and if the Italian State could just get its hands on it many short term financing problems would be solved. The Monti government jacked-up taxes and declared war on tax evaders. Italy moved decisively from operating a self-assessment tax system for businesses to an assessment system operated by the tax authorities. The value of cash was reduced to a maximum of €1,000 as this is the maximum that can be used in any transaction. The Italian State under Mario Monti began hoovering-up enormous sums of money, money, the majority of which was obviously not from the black economy and which would have otherwise have been invested or spent. Mario Monti introduced to Italy the voracious value-destroying mechanism of the Soviet Union where the State was a destroyer of value until all the national wealth had been consumed and the system stopped working, all by itself.
It took few months for the Monti government to completely destroy an economy that was, after a national lifetime of maladministration, already at the end. After twelve months consumption had fallen back to the levels immediately following the second world war. De-industrialisation that had been occurring at a constant measured pace became a national suicide.
So coming back to Loris. The black economy doesn’t feature much in Loris’s farm. He is an EU cereals farmer so he produces, sells to registered dealers, everything is documented, low taxes paid, CAP payments dispensed. No chance to evade. But suddenly his costs shot-up. As the Italian State stripped money from businesses, great and small, they sought to recover, at least a part, from their customers. Prices for spare parts became prohibitive and loosed all relation from their value in production. Prices of every single thing that Loris uses in his farming business climbed.
to be continued ....
What follows, are the thoughts of my Friday evening English Conversation class. The original idea was for me to correct the text of the students and post it on the site so that those students with access to a computer could compare and contrast the corrected version with their original effort. In fact, there is little to correct as the English is pretty good. What has surprised us - myself and the students - is the opinions presented in such a structured way. The previous time we discovered that all the students would have voted for Barrack Obama. This time you can see how they see - at least in snapshot - the so-called Anglo-Saxon world!
What is the difference between Italy and the Anglo-Saxon world? The main difference is the language: English is spoken now throughout the world. Whereas our language, Italian, is spoken only in Italy. The Anglo-Saxon countries are: Great Britain, Northern Ireland, the United States of America, a part of Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Of what I have seen so far, they are better than us. They have the highest wages and pay fewer taxes.
The question is what are the different characteristics between Italian people and English or Anglo-Saxon people. Many people believe that, first of all, the Anglo-Saxon people are phlegmatic; that means self-controlled and so having an ability to behave calmly, respectfully and so on. Now, I am going to tell you something about Italian people. They more or less belong to the Latin race. Temperamentally it is easy for them to get into a temper or to be arrogant. But, on the other hand, they are friendly, and offer hospitality to everybody. (I think too much). And they are a good working population. But, the trouble is in Italy that when someone is in power or in charge or in a position of leadership they have a tendency to become dishonest, corrupted and take bribes. Bribery in Italy is really our biggest problem.
I conclude: in my opinion everybody in Italy who is in charge or in a position of leadership should be impeached. Moreover, they should be sentenced "to life imprisonment" because they robbed us.
I don’t know well the Anglo-Saxon world. I only know what I see on the television. I like to see the movies set in England because of the landscapes, the cottages and gardens so full of flowers. I was once in England and Scotland many years ago and I remember the weather suddenly changing from sun to rain, green fields, and dead sheep along the road killed by cars (in italy we can see dead cats). The people are very kind and queuing everywhere. The English kitchen is not as varied as the Italian one. But, I remember, with pleasure, very good salmon, smoked or fresh in Scotland; tender meat in England; and fantastic butterscotch cookies and the baked potatoes with butter and sour cream inside.
Italy contrasted with Europe - After 46 years in Switzerland, I had great difficulty to accustom myself to being in Italy. In Switzerland there are rules and laws that must be respected. In Italy, the politics are an awful and an unappetizing meal. The bureaucracy is a Kafkaesque nightmare etc etc. The Italian people are ingenious, clever, and brilliant both in positive and in negative things. Italy is my country, a beautiful country.
The differences between the Anglo-Saxon and Italian worlds are many. To mention some: in Italy we have the Roman Catholic religion, in the Anglo-Saxon world the religion is in the majority Anglican, Protestant and other. Italy is a republican democracy. This is different to the Anglo-Saxon world in which the monarchy has mostly so far endured. There are other differences, for example, in eating, in the clothing and most importantly in the freedom of information. In Italy we are controlled by party politics and the church. By comparison, the Anglo-Saxon world is completely and fully liberated and free.
Some differences between Italy and some Anglo-Saxon countries. Obviously there are many differences in various contexts. And now I will try to explain my point of view on some of them like:
For example in countries like the USA, the United Kingdom and so on there are only two main parties and electoral law has not changed for a long time. The people after voting can immediately know the winner with little margin of doubt. The candidate presents his programme to govern before and during the campaign and the winner must execute what he has promised.
In these countries there are various important and serious universities that train the management class and future leaders. The main aspect is the importance given to research. They develop new technologies and further knowledge in every field of existence. Many italian students go to these universities.
Much more informal and free without the excessive sentimentalism existing in italian families.
For me this is the fundamental difference but perhaps it is better to stop here ....
The main differences between Italy and and Anglo-Saxon world: London has the Queen, in Italy there isn’t a monarch. The difference between Italy and England is the English Language. This language is connected in origin to the germanic languages. The English Language is spoken in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The countries that have a political connection with the United Kingdon are Australia, New Zealand, Canada and North America.
Another difference between Italy and the Anglo-Saxon countries are that we only speak Italian but those countries all speak English.
Loris’s increasing acre-age, however, brought with it problems as well as benefits. Seeds and fertilisers could no longer easily be managed manually so some kind of fork-lift would be required to load heavy sacks onto the trailer for transport to where they would be dispersed. This would require another tractor. Needing a fork-lift, it didn’t really matter how old the tractor was so long as it was fit for the purpose so, after some scouting around, Loris purchased a small second-hand tractor and mounted a new forklift. Loris was also making more hay and harvesting more grain so he got access to his uncle’s trailer. To speed-up sowing, Loris purchased a larger and better mechanised seed drill. But this was too heavy for the tractor Loris had been using previously so Loris purchased another second-hand tractor to pull and power the seed-drill. Then, in his drive to plough more land faster, Loris purchased a three furrow plough. He came across a second-hand tractor that would be ideal both to plough and to sew. He traded in the tractor he had purchased for the new mechanised seed drill and, in October of this year, purchased the Lamborghini tractor shown in the photos of the day of Wednesday 24 October. This tractor is 17 years old.
The grain prices that Friulani farmers received from 2000 - 2006 were pretty flat and farmers like Loris increased their earnings by farming more land and doing it more efficiently. In Loris’s case he bought machinery new when it was an overt aid to increasing production and productivity, such as the seed drill. Any machinery that didn’t have a direct impact on the bottom line could be purchased second hand, such as the tractors. For Friulani small-holder farmers a good, reliable tractor that is 17 years old is as good a a new one. While tractors used in specialised farming such as vineyards or large land-holdings have become more technologically sophisticated and bring direct productivity and production benefits to the farmer, for small cereals farms tractors are effectively motors-on-wheels and too much electronic sophistication is actually a disadvantage as it makes them more difficult and expensive to repair when something goes wrong.
By 2007 Loris had effectively plateaued in as far as he could develop his farm. Land was not coming onto the market so it was difficult to increase the farm size by purchase. But Loris was also reaching the natural limit of what he could manage by himself through adept choice and use of machinery. Luckily, in 2007 cereals prices took-off, in particular due to cereals being used in the production of bio-diesel. Loris was lucky that a succession of hot summers and drought affected his production little as his maize was planted in clay soil which retains humidity. Nearby farmers with their crops in gravel soils saw their harvests plunge. It seemed to Loris, as it seemed to us in these last years, that he could, after having built-up his business and adjusted it to make the most out of what he had using efficiencies gained by machinery and improved processes, that he could now settle back to a calm life and a comfortable income. But it was not to be.
to be continued ....
... Getting back to the story of our friend, local farmer Loris ...
The 1990’s were a fine time for Loris. Cereals prices were high, input costs contained and he had all the machinery he needed to earn a comfortable living without the all-consuming physical exertion of only a generation previously. Through mechanisation and the increased productivity it produced he was, alone, able comfortably to farm that which he had inherited from his family and, in addition, to increase his acre-age. It seemed to him that his working life would be a trajectory of constant improvement.
In 1992 Italy faced an existential crisis brought on by its profligate and ill-considered economic policy of decades. Italy was ejected from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) ,the precursor the the Euro ,and came to within a hairs-breadth of not being able to fund its public debt. Exit from the ERM saw two more-or-less simultaneous devaluations. Then in 1995 the Lira was devalued again. Inflation at the time was high. All these things favoured and created an export boom in Friuli, principally based around chairs and furniture manufacture. Whether true or not, it was believed that at some point during the 1990’s Friuliwas responsible for 60% of world chair production. By happy coincidence, the fall of communism in Eastern Europe had given Friuli chair manufacturers access to lumber supplies from countries with even weaker currencies that Italy’s and with prices reflecting the relative poverty of those societies exiting from communism.
Friuli was awash in liquidity. Factories sprouted in the Manzano district and elsewhere providing well-paid jobs. Italy was well-placed, because of its manufacturing and steel working heritage, to design and provide wood-working machinery. Many of the normal disadvantages of a weak currency - in particular high input costs - were thus ameliorated. In Friuli it seemed that the party would never end and this was the environment in which Loris found himself.
As all times, when it seems that the party will never end, it already has and Loris faced his first real challenge and the beginning of his having to refashion his farm.
As was the case of all small-holder farms in Italy after the Second World War, Loris’s farm included a cow stall and in his case he had eight milking cows. As in many villages, Ravosa had a cooperative dairy to which the milk would be brought in the evening and morning. The cooperative building and plant itself was provided by the Italian State but the farmers paid the running costs, including the cheese-maker, and they received cheese rounds in proportion to the milk that they contributed. The dairy also skimmed some milk fat to make butter, which was sold, but this was essentially a side-line with fresh ’latteria’ cheese being the principal product. Of course, the stalls were small and the cows were kept principally to provide milk and cheese to the farmer’s family. But some cheese was sold to non-farming folk and this produced a small income.
But while a small cow-stall might make sense for a large family where the women and children could manage the cows and the milk and the produce of the cows could provide needed protein and some cash, it made no sense in relation to the smaller nuclear families that were becoming prevalent in Friulano agriculture in the 1980’s. And whereas labour had been traditionally divided on the farm with the animals being the women’s responsibility (plus bringing-up and looking after the children, and house-cleaning, and cooking, and washing!) and the fields and crops being that of the menfolk, sole farmers, like Loris, found themselves having to absorb both roles. Moreover, stall keeping, animal husbandry and milk production are labour intensive, and if practised on a small scale are only economically viable if undertaken by the farmer his or her-self.
The time had arrived when Loris’s stall had to go. This was a tough decision. The stall had been a key part of the farm all of Loris’s life up to that point. To abandon it seemed as if to remove a pillar from the farm. But it was no longer economic. Loris had to focus on cereals production and increasing his acre-age. The time to buy milk from the super-market had arrived!
The first five years of the new millennium, 2000 - 2005, saw Loris expanding his acre-age and up-sizing his farm machinery to permit him to manage his increasingly larger farm. At the beginning of the decade most of the farmers were aged in their early thirties being the generation born around the 1960’s that were now fully working their family farms. They were flush with cash an eager to buy more fields. But few fields were on sale so prices were high and competition for them fierce. Those fields that could potentially have been put up for sale were those of farmers who lacked off-spring or whose kids, if they had them, had no interest in carrying on the agricultural tradition. But for so long as they owned agricultural land they received the CAP payments so they were incentivized by the Common Agricultural Policy not to sell. This prevented young farmers from buying land to increase the size of their farms. It placed a break on the aggregations of farms instead keeping them small and unable to benefit from economies of scale. So the farmers would either be paid to plough, sow and reap the pensioner’s fields or the pensioner would keep the PAC payment, the farmer would rent the field and plough, sow and harvest on his own account. This was a time when knowledge that some fields were coming on sale was treated as information of the greatest value. Negotiations were conducted in secret to avoid creating an auction as more farmers got interested. But the seller "held the knife by the handle" as they say in Italy and farmers were forced to concede that no negotiating was to be had. One paid the asking price and that was that!
By 2008 the value of agricultural land around Ravosa had simply got too high and at this point Loris decided that he could no longer justify buying more land. Instead he would focus of renting fields to use as his own.
to be continued ...
As for the last two years, this year I am teaching English conversation for the "University of the Third Age" at the old Ravosa elementary school. Every Friday night for 90 minutes the poor students, mostly retired, must endure English conversation in New Zealandese which is certainly not BBC English! This year, I have tried getting the students before-class to prepare some text in English on a given topic. Then they read it out loud and while they are doing this I type it down on my Chrome-book (which works very well also off-line!). I promised them that I would put the text on-line so that they could compare their original effort with something that has been corrected. Of course, it is not helpful to re-write what the students have done but, luckily, this is not really necessary as most have a fair degree of basic English skill. The topic, rather obviously, for last week was the American Election. Below you will see what the students, all aged between 50 and 82 years, made of it! Rather to my surprise they were all, to a man and woman, Obama supporters. Obviously we really are living in the time of Obama!
USA - Election of American President. After an election campaign, head to head, Chicago and America celebrated Barack Obama’s victory. Mitt Romney was the loser, but with fair play, he admitted defeat and congratulated Obama. This is America’s democracy.
What I think about President Obama. For his family, he is a good father so I hope and think that he will be a good President for America. When he knew of his victory he was very exited. And he thanked his people for having voted him President.
American Presidential Election Day was on 6 November 2012. The winner was Barack Obama of the Democratic Party. He took 50% of the vote. Against Obama was challenger Romney of the Republican party who got 48% of the vote. Barack Obama has been re-elected for another 4 years.
Four more years was the slogan!
On his first appearance at the press conference shown on BBC/CNN television Obama said: “I will finish doing what I have begun.
You know the slogan "We can do!"
The American people voted for the re-election of Barack Obama because he will behave favourably towards, in particular, those from the working class and also Latinos, Indigenous Americans, women and young people. They expect him to solve all the important problems such as health care (only started), unemployment and many other things.
Instead the Republican challenger, Romney, cast his lot on behalf of the Capitalist People. He lost by a few votes.
At a television press conference Romney congratulated President Obama on his re-election. Romney also said: “I would like to collaborate with your government”. And finally he said God Bless You and the Big USA!”
Another Obama slogan "Forward!.
6th November Election Day USA!
Obama wins! And I believe that so so many people in the world are very happy. Me too! Obama gives the impression of being a reasonable person, honest and optimistic. He has a very kind family. I think that his wife Michelle has contributed deeply to his re-election. Of course, there are other people who are not happy at the result of this election. But I note one thing that is very special about America. The loser gives his congratulation’s to the winner and Democracy goes ahead, like in Italy - Ha Ha!
I really hope that Obama may contribute to improve the good life in the world. Another difference with Italy: in the USA people vote on one day and in the same day we can know the winner.
I am happy that Obama has won the American Presidential election because he is credible. Because during his presidency he maintained all that he promised. He is important also because he is the President that has given medical assistance to poor people. That’s all. For me it is fantastic!
The winner is Barack Obama. just as I expected. I am very happy for this victory because Obama is for Europe politically. The four years that he governed were very difficult for him because of the international crisis. Romney didn’t inspire confidence and I think he wouldn’t be able to govern. In Ohio the people gave the casting vote for the winner. The votes of Afro American and Hispanics were very important. His famous slogan when he won the first time was "Yes we can".
And so Obama won again. His ideas are good and he is young and full of energy. But this global world is very complicated. I don’t think that only one man can resolve all the problems even if he has a lot of power. The fact that almost 50% of the American people voted for Romney means that not everybody supports Obama. Now Obama has to work hard and I hope that the political system in the United States is better than ours. I hope that all the people, even the opposition, work together for a better result.
... Getting back to the story of our friend, local farmer Loris ...
Loris doesn’t have a computer or smart phone. He understands about the internet though and when he needs to purchase spare parts for his agricultural machinery on-line he gets one of his nephews to do it for him. He has digital security cameras to keep an eye on his tractors and diesel tank so it is not fear of new technology that holds him back from completely going digital. Rather, it is, for him, the feeling that the last of the old life, the memories he has of how things were in Friuli before the serious earthquake of 1976, the memories of life lived close to the stall animals and working the fields with primitive implements pulled by animals or simple Fiat tractors. A way of life secure in the shared strength of extended family working together, close to the land and its fruits. A more simple life gone already. So Loris resists moving onto the internet, putting a WiFi in his house. By keeping things in some way how they were before the digital world, he pays homage to his memories and an existence by now largely forgotten.
So it was that when I recounted to Loris what I had written in the last diary entries for October he listened intently.
He, like me, was rather taken to realise the massive accumulation of wealth that had occurred to his family in such a short period of time.
"But you are missing some facts" he told me
"First, to make the story complete you need to mention that it was the raising of silkworms that gave my family its first cash crop." Loris said
In the early part of the 20th Century Venice was a centre of silk working. The mulberry tree upon which silk worm (larvae of the bombyx mori moth) feeds had been brought to Friuli from Asia and established itself well. Agricultural fields were delineated by lines of mulberry trees and the leaves would be harvested to feed the silkworms who would eventually spin themselves a cocoon of silk. The cocoons were then sold for cash to the reeling plants around Udine where young women and girls would remove the single true silk thread from cocoons floating in hot water. This was a step-up from subsistence farming.
"Second" Loris said "You need to mention that in 1993 the Common Agricultural Policy payments began."
The Common Agricultural Policy payments gave Loris, who had taken over his father’s share of the farm in 1991 at the age of 28 years, a secure income not linked to the vagaries of production or prices.
So in the early 1990’s when Loris took over his father’s farm it was at the economic apex of small-holding agriculture in Italy. Smallholder farmers had enjoyed a transfer of economic wealth on a massive scale that had been partially, if indirectly, initially funded by the United States, debt incurred in making capital investments had been eroded away through inflation and input costs artificially reduced through subsidies. Product prices were supported by State buying and, when this got too much, finally, guaranteed CAP payments ensured an income separated from production and prices.
In an incredibly short period the feudal system of share-cropping had given way to land reform on a massive scale lubricated by a flow of money that quietened any resistance and brought rural misery into economic comfort. Mechanisation and the use of chemicals had brought a massive increase in productivity. But just as the peasants had worked for the landlords prior to the Second World War, now they effectively worked for the Italian State. Needing the affirmation of the massive rural vote, a validation that the previous landlords had never required, The Italian State ensured that Italian farmers were comfortably off. But in return they were expected to do what the Italian State required of them and so they were managed, educated and herded principally by Coldiretti the Catholic corporatist union created to bind smallholder farmers to the corporatist Italian system, in large part by ensuring that their concerns were met. It was a real two-way street. But a street of stasis where the status quo would reign, productivity stagnate and increasing costs render Italian farming always less competitive.
to be continued ...