I was quite surprised when I found out today that the number of subsidized organic farmers in Austria has recently declined despite the apparent boom of organic food. In particular, insufficient subsidies for the transition from conventional to organic farming and missing political support contribute to this negative development.
This is even more surprising as – in the face of the recent food scandals in Europe – more and more consumers are turning to organic food, Austria’s biggest retail chains have expanded their assortment of organic food and many young farmers who are taking over their parents’ farms show great interest in switching to organic farming.
In fact, according to the national organic food association Bio Austria, more than a quarter of Austrian farmers thinks about switching to organic farming and 69% of the Austrian population supports subsidies for organic farming. Therefore, it is in the interest of consumers, retailers and especially farmers to increase the share of organic farms in Austria.
Moreover, organic farming not only has positive effects in terms of climate protection, biodiversity and food safety but also creates meaningful, diverse and innovative jobs that contribute to a modern and future-proof economy. This can stabilize weak regions through sustainable, rural development and strengthen the position of agricultural employees and consumers through better food diversity and supplies.
Finally, as a small country, Austria can also become a role model for organic agriculture within Europe and benefit from growing demand for organic products outside Austria’s borders. So, while I was shocked about the recent decline in organic farmers in Austria, I hope that there will be a renaissance of organic farming in the coming months.