Austria is the EU’s organic farming country number 1: It is the EU Member State having the highest share of farms that are managed according to organic farming principles. As stated in the 5th Organic Farming Action Programme (2015 - 2020), Austria’s declared goal is to maintain this position and to further raise its share of organic farming.
Also in the new period of the Austrian Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 (RD 14-20) the measure “Organic farming” represents a central part of the ÖPUL, the Austrian Programme to promote agricultural production methods compatible with the requirements of the protection of the environment, extensive production and the maintenance of the countryside. The measure has been further developed and has received higher funds. As before, it can be combined with other agri-environmental measures, which means that, taken everything into account, organic farms receive about one third of the ÖPUL funds. Also the market share of organic food, which is comparatively high in Austria, is ensured in this manner.
“Bio” as a holistic approach
However, not only ÖPUL counts increasingly on “bio”. The investment aid offered in the framework of the Austrian Rural Development Programme RD 14-20 allows extra payments for particularly animal-friendly systems of animal husbandry as well as for the preparation and processing of bio-produce. By way of sales promotion, the marketing of new, innovative and organic products is promoted. Basically, the objective is to link domestic farmers more effectively to the food sector. An extra payment for the accruing control costs (costs of transaction) makes it easier to start organic farming. Also knowledge transfer and networking make a vital contribution to the development of organic farming.
For this purpose, the Programme RD 14-20 offers education and innovation projects as well as awareness-raising measures. Organic farms located in less favoured areas (“Zone 3” and “Zone 4”) will also be pleased that, in spite of restricted framework conditions, the compensatory allowance has been upgraded in the best possible way. The ÖPUL measure “Organic farming” offers solutions for a safe, future-oriented and sustainable type of agriculture. Due to the renouncement of chemical-synthetic plant protection products, the limitation of permitted fertilisers and diversified crop rotation organic farming enhances the diversity of plants and animals. The use of organic fertilisers, suitable plant species and crop rotation diversity also help improve the soil humus content and contribute to reducing soil erosion. Against the background of climate change soils having a high humus content are gaining importance, as they have a high water and nitrogen storage capacity. With farmers being increasingly under the pressure of intensification, the design of the measure “Organic farming” has been further developed through the integration of requirements concerning biodiversity.