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Landwirtschaft#

Agriculture: Agriculture comprises the production of food, fodder, and regrowable natural resources, as well as the conservation of land developed and cultivated by man (landscape conservation). About 150 years ago, Austria was still an agrarian country, in which 75 % of the population were farmers ( Bauern); in 1961 only 16 % earned their livelihood through agriculture. In 1992, 5 % of the population and 6,9 % of the gainfully employed belonged to the agricultural sector. In the years 1970-1993, the number of farms dropped by 70,000 to 267,444. Of these, 149,860 are subsidiary enterprises (56.2 %, one of the highest percentages in Europe), in which one or both members of the married couple running the farm pursue a different full-time occupation; the management of the farm, being concentrated in leisure and vacation time, is therefore not always optimal. The proportion of the gross domestic product produced by agriculture and forestry fell from 16,4 % in 1954 to 9,7 % in 1963 and to 2,4 % in 1993. In 1992, 31,4 % of the gross agricultural production came from crops and 68,6 % from livestock.


In order to satisfy increasing food requirements and compensate for the ongoing loss of agricultural production area (approx. 38 ha of agriculturally productive land are lost daily to road-building, housing, and industrial construction), both area productivity (an average of 2,5 % per year) and labour productivity have had to be substantially increased. This was achieved through Land Improvement Measures (property consolidation, drainage, construction of freight roads, cable railways, etc.), the use of mineral fertilisers, more effective pest control, and the utilisation of highly productive types of grain. In addition, improved seed was used and crop rotation optimised, feeding and production methods were modernised, and precise soil management according to an exact schedule introduced on a widespread basis. The use of mineral fertilisers has dropped, however; the figures for the use of nitrogen fertilisers, phosphorus, and potash, indicated as a total of pure nutrients, dropped from 140 kg/ha of agricultural production area in 1982 to 117 kg in 1992. A considerable production increase has been achieved through ongoing mechanisation. In 1930, 720 tractors were in use in Austrian agriculture, 1,641 in 1939, 78,748 in 1957, and 342,816 in 1993; the number of combine harvesters used in the Austrian agricultural sector increased from 900 in 1952 to 19,470 in 1993; over 64,000 farms are organised into machinery syndicates for better capacity utilisation of their farm machines.


Agricultural production in 1955 was twice as high as in 1937. In 1993 approximately 81 % (notional figure: 95 %) of Austria's food requirements were covered by domestic agriculture (100 % of milk, butter, cheese, bread grains, beef, veal, pork, lard, potatoes, and sugar; 70 % of vegetables, 41 % of fruit, 83 % of poultry, 88 % of eggs, 58 % of vegetable oils).


In 1993, Austria imported agricultural products worth ATS 34.4 billion; agricultural exports came to ATS 17.1 billion. The most important imports were fruit and vegetables (32.0 %), coffee, tea, and chocolate (12.3 %), plant and animal resources (9.7 %), and fodder (5.9 %); 60.1 % of the imports came from the EU. The most important exports were: livestock and meat (17.1 %), beverages (2.3 %), milk products and eggs (12.2 %), and grains and their processed products (12.1 %); the EU, with 49,2 % was Austria's most important sales market.


In 1993, a total of ATS 13.1 billion in federal subsidies went to the agricultural sector, ATS 1.05 billion of this to (se) Mountain Farmers. The amounts of direct subsidies and equalisation payments are constantly changing.


Production regions: Because of the nature of the land (2.6 % lowlands, 5.8 % depressions, 18.4 % hill country, 16.3 % low mountainous country, 16.9 % mountain regions, 40,0 % high mountain regions) and climatic conditions, Austria was divided into 8 production regions: high Alps (34.8 %), pre-Alps (11.1 %), eastern edge of the Alps (transition to flatlands, 12.9 %), Waldviertel and Muehlviertel region (9.6 %), Carinthian Basin (2.9 %), Alpine foothills (11,4 %), southeastern (7.0 %) and northeastern flatlands and hill country (10,3 %). Of the entire production area of 7,513,458 ha in 1993, 3,482,074 ha were agriculturally utilised: 18.6 % of this was arable land, 1.3 % gardens, orchards, and vineyards, 25.9 % meadows, pastures, and Alpine grasslands, 43,1 % areas used for forestry, and 11.1 % unproductive land. Of the 1,400,694 ha arable land, Austria has about 0.18 ha per capita. Utilisation is divided up as follows: fodder grains 35.9 %, bread grains 23.0 %, legumes 18.1 %, pulse 7.8 %, oil seed plants 7.2 %, root crops 6.2 %, and other crops 1.8 %.


Farm sizes: The average size of the 267,444 agricultural enterprises in Austria is 12.7 ha per farm, as compared to the EU average of 13.3 ha (as of 1993).


The types of farming in Austria include all possible combinations, from animal husbandry on grazing land to combined crop and livestock farming to general cropping farms, fruit-growing, or wine-growing.


The farmwork is done for the most part by the farmers' own families. In 1951 farm-owners and their families comprised nearly four fifths of the 1.6 million persons employed in the agricultural sector (working an average of 60-65 hours per week). The proportion of family members to outside help changed drastically from 760,000 : 115,000 in 1964 to 436,000 : 40,100 in 1993.


Agricultural production has for quite some time been regulated by quotas and sales legislation, e.g. for sugar beets, quality wheat, and milk. As a member of the EU, Austria is allowed set quotas for sown areas or for particular products, which are adequate for grain, milk, cattle, and sheep but very restrictive for sugar.


Regionalisation, and with it specialisation, have taken place in agriculture. For cost reasons (expensive special machines or barn equipment), farming enterprises often concentrate on the cultivation of a single grain or root crop, such as Maize, Potatoes, or Sugar Beets, or give preference to the cultivation of pure "combine harvester crop succession" ( Cereals, oilseed Rape, Sunflowers, Soy Bean, etc.). The production of early potatoes and Vegetables-is concentrated near towns. There are also regional production centres for Fruit Growing. Special crops include, for example Tobacco Cultivation, hop cultivation, and Wine Growing. Organic Farming is done according to special directives.


Livestock production: Cattle breeding is mainly based on grassland and field fodder (silage), while other forms of livestock farming are less dependent on cultivable acreage. In 1993 there were 2,336,000 cattle in Austria (in 1938: 2,578,804), 818,000 of them milk cows with an average production of 3997 kg during their 305-day lactation period; yearly production comes to 3,270,000 t of cow's milk, of which 595,000 t are fed to calves ( Dairy Farming). The average number of cattle per farm is 19. - Pig farming is mainly dependent on the import of protein concentrate feed: in 1993 there were 3,816,000 pigs (in 1937: 2,868,148) in Austria. On an average, each farm has 30 pigs. - The figures for sheep husbandry fluctuate considerably (in 1938: 315,342 sheep, in 1964: 147,339, in 1993: 333,000,). Goat keeping has diminished considerably (in 1938: 349,007 goats, in 1964: 110,516, in 1993: 46,900). Chicken farming, on the other hand, has increased, from 10,625,940 chickens in 1964 to 13,564,000 in 1993; the number of turkeys in 1993 was 794.000. - Before motorization began, horses were important work animals (246,555 in 1938); following a substantial reduction, the number of horses in Austria is now increasing again, due to an increase in their use in leisure sports (64,000 horses in 1993). Horse breeding is supported by state studs, e.g. the stallion centre in Stadl Paura, Upper Austria. - In addition to the production of honey, wax, pollen, and royal jelly, the 411,082 (as of 1993) bee colonies in Austria (in 1937: 455,752) are important for the pollination of fruit trees and crops such as rape and sunflowers ( Apiarism).


Modern agricultural history began in Austria around the middle of the 19th century; of particular significance was the development of Schools of Agriculture and Forestry. In 1872 the Hochschule fuer Bodenkultur ("Higher School of Agricultural Sciences"), now the University of Agricultural Sciences was established in Vienna. Mechanisation of the agricultural sector began at the end of the 19th century. In 1906 an inspection centre for agricultural machinery and equipment was established at the research institute of the Hochschule fuer Bodenkultur; under the name "Bundesversuchs- und Pruefanstalt fuer landwirtschaftliche Maschinen" ("Federal Experimental and Test Station for Agricultural Machines") the institution was moved to Wieselburg (Lower Austria) in 1946. In 1798, A. Burg founded the first agricultural equipment plant in Vienna; a second plant, founded by P. Jordan, followed in Voesendorf in 1813. In 1818 the first iron ploughs were manufactured in Waldegg. In 1822 the first exhibition of agricultural machines was held in Vienna. Clayton and Shuttleworth began building steam-powered threshing machines in 1857, and since 1869 Hofherr-Schrantz has manufactured mowers in Vienna.


Around 1880, the first countryside improvement councils (Landeskulturraete) and district cooperatives were instituted ( Agricultural Cooperatives), from which the Chambers of Agriculture (also referred to as "Bauernkammern", "farmers' chambers") proceeded in 1922. At the end of 1933 the Agricultural Market of Austria (Agrarmarkt Austria, AMA) took over the role of the dairy husbandry fund (Milchwirtschaftsfonds), the grain equalisation fund (Getreideausgleichsfonds), and the livestock transport fund (Viehverkehrsfonds).


In 1875 a law was passed instituting measures against the spreading of the vine pest and in 1880 a law on epizootic diseases; in 1881 the seed inspection institute (Samenkontrollstation) was established in Vienna; further important laws were the Kommassationsgesetz (amalgamation of pieces of land) and the Bereinigungsgesetz des Waldlands von fremden Enklaven (law on the removal of non-forested enclaves from forest land) in 1883, the land restoration and torrent control law of 1884, and the fisheries act of 1885. In 1889, uniform framework legislation relating to the inheritance of farms and forest land (Hoeferecht) was passed, although only Carinthia and Tyrol passed the requisite provincial laws ( Anerbenrecht). Adherence to the wine-growing legislation is monitored by inspectors.

Literature#

L. Loehr, Faustzahlen fuer den Landwirt, 1990; Bundesministerium fuer Land- und Forstwirtschaft (Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, ed.), Bericht ueber die Lage der oesterreichischen Landwirtschaft, 1993; Oesterreichisches Statistisches Zentralamt (ed.), Ergebnisse der Landwirtschaftsstatistik im Jahre 1993, 1994.