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Austria - Agralp: Development of agricultural structures in the Alps

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Farm structure

Compared to the farm abandonment rates across the Alps (35.8%), farm abandonment in the Austrian Convention area was relatively moderate (12.2%). However, the development of farm abandonment in the Austrian part of the Alps experienced quite a few differences depending on time and space. The economic miracle at the end of the Second World War led to a rural exodus and, consequently, to a massive decline in the farm head-count. This decline continued downwards, until it reached its absolute low in the 1970s, and has slowly subsided again since the 1980s. 
On a regional level, the decline in the farm head-count between 1980 and 2000 differed considerably (see map). While the smallholder structures in the West of Austria, the western alpine-farming area in which the subdivision of lots still applies, were affected considerably by the decline in the farm head-count, alpine farming in the East of Austria between the Brenner and the Niedere Tauern declined only slightly in comparison. The agricultural structure on the eastern fringes of the Alps shows an entirely different development. The municipalities along the Mur-Mürz valley, a region with a long-standing industrial background, are particularly characterised by a marked decline of rural structures. 
The following results regarding the distribution of farm size categories and socio-economic farm types illustrate the effect of the agro-structural change on farm structures.

Development of farms between 1980 and 2000


Between 1980 and 2000, the share of farms in the Austrian Convention area in all farms in the Alpine Arc increased from 24.5% to 33.5%. This increase is due to a moderate decline in the farm population in Austria on the one hand and to a marked decline in the farm head-count in the southern member states, particularly in Italy, on the other hand. 
With a UAA of 18 ha, the size of Austrian mountain farms corresponds approximately to the average farm size in the EU-15 member states and approaches the average farm size in the entire Alpine region (farm size category). Due to a higher proportion of agricultural areas and a slightly smaller average farm size, the farm density in Austria is 20% higher than the average in all Alpine Convention countries.

Total Alpine versus the Austrian Convention area, 2000  ​ ​ ​
 Total Convention area
Austrian Convention area,
Number of farms 287,282 96,205 33.5 
Farms/km² 1.5 1.8   --- 


Against the background of increasingly difficult production conditions in the Alps, the following figure is surprising: Compared to the national average (31.6%), Austria including the Convention area), far less farms stopped operating in the Austrian part of the Alps between 1980 and 2000 (12.2%). 
Among others, the determining factors in this context are selective agro-political measures, such as subsidies and allowances for mountain farmers as well as direct payments and premiums for alpine livestock keeping, which helped to ensure the survival of numerous farms. These financial measures as well as a family's attachment to its farm and the region contributed significantly to the low abandonment rates in the Austrian part of the Alps. Thus, the combination of subsidies and socio-economic background is the reason for the comparatively low farm abandonment rates. 
In 2000, the Austrian Convention area accounted for 44.2% of the Austrian farms. However, since these farms take up more than half of the country's utilised agricultural area, the farm density per km² in the Austrian Convention area is lower by 0.8 (32.1%) compared to that of Austria as a whole.

​Austria versus the Austrian Convention area, 2000 ​ ​ ​
Austrian Convention area
Number of farms 217,508 96,205 44.2 
Farms/km² 2.6 1.8   --- 

Below you find relevant maps available for download in PDF format:
Farms: 1980-2000 (663 KB); 1990-2000 (738 KB)
Farms / km²:  1980 (733 KB);  1990 (736 KB);  2000 (729 KB)  

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