For the purpose of nurturing domestic, regional production, organising the market and promoting sales, the preparation of Austria's position and the country's representation in a wealth of EU committees and in direct contacts with the European Commission, the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament is of prime importance. In addition, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management provides the bridge to the food sector. The aim is to support the production of high-quality foods, encourage the marketing of these products in export markets and the regions and address animal welfare and animal breeding issues. In Austria, the promotion of environmentally compatible and extensive management systems is traditionally conceived of as a holistic concept.
Marketing programmes such as the export initiative or the project "Austrian Region of Delight" ("Genussregion Österreich") have been successfully implemented for many years. More recently, it has become increasingly worthwhile to regard what is termed the complete food supply chain in terms of the concepts "from stable to table" or "from farm to fork".
In recent years, the new challenges that agriculture faces primarily include the climate change impact on production and increasing price fluctuations (volatility) in the markets. These challenges will be addressed by bolstering risk management in agricultural holdings (e.g. insurance).
Securing regional food supplies through area-wide agriculture is of major importance, particularly in times of global crises and environmental disasters but also in view of the globe's rapidly growing population, speculation with commodities, high price volatilities and climate change. In so doing, crucial importance is attributed to the maintenance of multi-functional agriculture, which warrants regional food supplies, the vitality of rural regions, the conservation of landscapes and other ecosystem services. Price and income stabilisation for family-run farms, further improvement of competitiveness and the safeguarding of markets will continue to play a role in the future as well. To this end, public awareness for the diversity, sustainable production, natural quality, origin and climate relevance of regionally produced foodstuffs will have to be raised.
Securing area-wide agricultural production in Austria, the markets, a sustainable diet and the supply with domestic quality products are crucial when it comes to meeting the new challenges. This must be backed by developing the CAP; awareness building with regard to agriculture's ecosystem services, and the sustentation of equalisation payments and compensations for services are vital, particularly in disadvantaged or mountain regions.
The purpose of the "Initiative Agriculture 2020" is to develop key strategic elements for the realignment of Austria's agriculture. Planning and forging alliances, establishing a position with respect to the CAP until 2020 and the future EU budget represent further priorities the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management needs to engage in to warrant that production and the markets are preserved for future generations. It is just as vital to design, sustain and support measures that foster awareness, raise quality, add value and push sales, and to develop a system of risk management for climate change and price volatility.