Agricultural, quality agro-food, supply-chain and rural districts were introduced by Italian law in 2001. With reference to European structural policies, especially rural development policy, and to the districts' originality and relationship to the LEADER method and programmes, we wonder whether they can still form a useful part of the new programming period 2014 - 2020. The question is analysed in the wider context of international literature on socio-economic and economic policy, so as to stimulate broader interest, with a view to the future. A survey on national scale is presented, limited to the districts legally recognised by the Regions. A detailed historical reconstruction is given, offering a "reconstructive reading" through which we clarify the actual nature of these districts, including their connections to clusters and industrial districts. We also discuss how to better link the theoretical and the legal frameworks. And we examine the connection between the basic economic mechanisms of the district theory and how the Regions have implemented them in reality. To do this, we summarised the overall conceptual framework into a few basic components for our desk research. This has led to development of a methodological definition of districts in agriculture. Finally we give a concise analysis of the main outlines of the structural policies relating to this essential notion of "district", in order to reach some conclusions of general validity.
Agricultural Quality agro-food Supply-chain and rural districts Industrial districts Cluster Business network LEADER method Rural governance and multi-level governance Rural development policy European structural and investment funds Community-led local development Italian Regions Tobit