Italy: Tractors drive past the Colosseum as Meloni pledges tax help

Rome: A convoy of tractors on Friday drove past the landmarks of ancient Rome before Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni told a delegation of farmers that the government would partially reintroduce a tax break for them.

Farmers have staged demonstrations across Europe, including in Spain and Poland, to protest against low prices for produce, rising costs, cheap imports and constraints linked to the European Union’s policies against climate change. They are demanding action by authorities.

Four tractors, escorted by police, crossed the city streets and passed in front of the Colosseum and the Circus Maximus, adorned with Italian flags and slogans decrying the EU’s green transition.

“Operational and production costs are exaggerated and we are looking for answers. We don’t want to create problems, we just want answers as soon as possible,” one of the protesters, Luigi Allegrini, said.

Farmers had initially planned a big rally in a central square but they scaled down their protest fearing that street blockades or other aggressive tactics could jeopardise their support among the public.

“We are not here to protest but to make proposals,” said another farmer, Roberto Rosati.

Meloni chaired a meeting with farming associations at government headquarters and pledged to reintroduce an income tax break that has been scrapped in the 2024 budget, but only for those who earn up to 10,000 euros ($10,800).

“The exemption must be for the weakest, a concrete support measure for those who produce and not a privilege,” Meloni said at the closed-door meeting, according to remarks shared by her office.

Farming is a sensitive sector for Italy’s right-wing administration. Coldiretti, the main agricultural lobby, has a close relationship with the government but the current protests are being led by smaller groups.

“The government has defended farmers and contested the wrong choices imposed by the European Commission from the very beginning,” Meloni told the farmers.