Support for the tending of our mountains and alpine pastures

Mountain farmers work for healthy, safe food. They tend the alpine landscape and make an important contribution to natural hazards control.

The cultivation of mountains and mountain pastures is of inestimable value and a prerequisite for regionality and safety. The new Programme supports farmers and farm women in those regions. It promotes their vital contribution to area-wide, environmentally sound farming. Apart from the compensatory allowance, also the Agri-environmental Programme, ÖPUL, strengthens Austria’s mountain areas - for example as regards the herding of animals on alpine pastures. The new investment aid, too, offers additional opportunities. Investments in alpine pastures and in extreme locations receive targeted support.

Mountain areas sustainably managed

Almost two thirds of Austria’s agriculturally utilised areas are located in less favoured areas. Three quarters of all domestic agricultural and forestry enterprises are active there. The by far greater part of the less favoured areas are the mountain areas, where farmers work under particularly difficult conditions: Steep land, unfavourable climate and often isolated locations.

With their pastures and other areas, alpine pastures cover about 20 percent of the total cadastral area. They play a major role in spatial as well as in economic and ecological terms. By far the most important production sectors in these regions are dairy farming and cattle farming. This is why special attention is paid to alpine animal farming. As keepers of roughage-consuming animals face clearly higher production costs, they are entitled to higher subsidies.

Especially milk production is increasingly shifted to the mountain regions favoured by nature. The traditional ways of dairy farming in alpine areas will be particularly intensively promoted in the future. The work of the holdings concerned creates valuable infrastructure for future generations and contributes decisively to the success of Austria’s tourism and leisure sector.

Compensatory allowance creates fair opportunities

Thanks to the compensatory allowance for mountain and less favoured areas, agricultural activities can be continued in these regions, too. None of the EU Member States supports its mountain farmers as pin-pointedly depending on their handicaps as Austria does.

With the “area-based amount 1”, special attention can be paid to small farms. In the new period, this subsidisation scheme for the compensation payment is continued. To make optimum use of the scarcer funds, the measures have been designed more precisely. The payment is calculated accurately, based on the individual farm’s handicaps. In this way the differences in costs and yields such farms are facing compared to farms in favoured areas can be cushioned accurately.

Handicap simply and accurately assessed now

In less favoured areas, an agriculturally utilised area of at least two hectares has to be managed the whole year round. So far, a distinction between different handicap levels has been possible only by mountain farm cadastre points. However, for many farms of handicap zone 0 the need for compensation compared to the farms outside less favoured areas is not verifiable. Nevertheless a basic per-hectare amount, which is the same for all holdings in handicap zone 0, was provided for. A reform was urgently necessary.

As from 2015, an individual system of evaluation will be applied also for farms of handicap zone 0. This is done in a rather simple way and using the existing data. For the classification, slope gradient, number of breaks, sea level as well as climate conditions are used.

Farms which, according to this evaluation, have fewer than five handicap points and a soil-climate index of more than 45 points will no longer be eligible in the next period. For the remaining farms of handicap zone 0 the amount of the compensatory allowance will in the future be calculated exactly according to the number of handicap points - as has been done before in the case of mountain farms.

By means of the funds saved in this way the farms most urgently needing compensation payments - those in zones 3 and 4 - can be considered more than so far.  Finally, the premiums determined must not exceed the calculated requirement. The European Commission attaches great importance to a scientifically substantiated calculation of this compensation requirement.

Compensation requirement exactly calculated

For Austria, the renowned agricultural economist Leopold Kirchner was charged with the calculations. His calculations are checked and certified at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences. In this way the Commission ensures that the compensation requirements are scientifically substantiated. The compensatory allowance is, and will continue to be, of utmost importance for the generation of income of farmers.

published at 21.03.2018, Kommunikation und Service (Abteilung Präs. 5)