Italian Agricultural Employers' Associations in the Fifties and Sixties: Their “Influencing” Action on Politics

Thursday, 2 July 2015: 4:00 PM-5:30 PM
TW2.3.02 (Tower Two)
Vanessa Pollastro, Economic History Department - Catholic University of Milan, Milan, Italy
Andrea Maria Locatelli, Economic History Department - Catholic University of Milan, Milan, Italy
Subject and context.

This essay analyzes the strategies that the different Italian agricultural employers’ associations carried out with regard to several projects to reform contractual relationships which had been developed by the Italian governments after 1947 and which could profoundly affect the agricultural market. Historical methodology will be applied to this research, with a particular attention to social issues.

After WWII, while Italy was engaged in the reconstruction process and modernizing the system in order to take part in the new Western economy, the agricultural sector underwent a reform process. This sector held significant economic weight in terms of domestic product and employment rate, but needed a profound modernizing boost to change old productive models and replace outdated social relationships.

Before Italian unification, in the Kingdom of Italy, the representation of agricultural interests had been reason for severe political and union disputes.

After WWII, the same world became ground for comparison between the governments led by the DC Party and the opposition of the Left. The majority party wanted to support small land ownership and increase the modernization of this sector within European agriculture, while the Communist Party supported hired hands’ claims against large property landowners in order to strengthen the alliance between movements among agricultural laborers and factory workers.

Two main agricultural associations were founded from the previous Fascist employers’ organization: Coldiretti and Confagricoltura. They had had a unitary structure during Fascism, but the post-war context was different. Coldiretti became independent from the Confagricoltura in order to represent small independent businesses and small farm tenants, while Confagricoltura was the association of landowners and tenants of large companies. They had different approaches to representing the interests of their members and competed with each other.

Regarding the need for modernization, they reacted in different ways, but both needed to be supported by political parties or other organizations.

Coldiretti established close relations with the Christian Democrats, while Confagricoltura was linked to the Liberal Party. These associations operated as pressure groups and tried to influence policies and economic governance. In particular, Confagricoltura was opposed to many legislative changes and looked for alliances with the industrial employers’ association (Confindustria); Coldiretti acted as a political current within the DC party, controlled some public and private agrarian institutions (e.g. Federconsorzi) and put its men in both the Parliament and in some Ministry commissions.

Our research will show the different ways of action of these two federations during the ‘50s and ‘60s, in order to discuss their ability to affect policies and several specific issues related to the agricultural sector:

a) the construction of new models of agrarian contracts and rules for employment;

b) the relationships with public agencies and institutions;

c) the setting of rules for the production and trade of some products.

Coldiretti succeeded in obtaining a series of measures which surely favored small independent farmers. At the same time, the political ties of this association with the DC Party allowed it to access public resources and control the basic local structures for the development of agricultural activities such as agrarian consortia. Confagricoltura had a more ambivalent role: it restrained reforming actions by defending large companies with an advanced technical structure but opposing the change in agrarian contracts which had hindered agricultural progress.

Sources and bibliography. A relatively abundant literature will be considered and studied; on one hand, it is about the agricultural policies implemented by the administrations led by Christian Democrats; on the other, it deals with the evolution of the agricultural sector during the ‘50s and ‘60s. In addition, primary sources and some available documents will be analyzed as well.


Confederazione generale dell’agricoltura italiana, 1947-1967. Vent’anni al servizio del paese per un avvenire migliore, Reda, Roma 1967;

Confederazione nazionale coltivatori diretti, Congressi nazionali, Relazioni del presidente, Ramo editoriale degli agricoltori, Roma, 1957-1969;

G. Medici, I tipi di impresa nell’agricoltura italiana, Inea, Roma 1951;

Id., La distribuzione della proprietà fondiaria in Italia, Inea, Roma 1956;

A. Serpieri , La struttura sociale dell’agricoltura italiana, Edizioni italiane, Roma 1947;

A. Zappi Recordati, L’organizzazione economica dei produttori dell’agricoltura, Reda, Roma 1951;

A. Zappi Recordati, Struttura, compiti e funzioni della Cgai, Galeati, Imola 1958.