Assessment made on 01 Jan 2001
ClassificationAgriculture (Primary theme)
DPSIR: Driving force
Policy issue: In which direction is the agriculture sector developing?
The trend towards a more centralised and intensive agriculture shows no signs of slowing, with productivity rising while the actual number of producers has fallen.
Between 1975 and 1995, for example, more than 3 million farms disappeared in the EU12 and the amount of agricultural land dropped, but the 'gross value added' - a measure of agricultural productivity - still rose by 18%.
Roughly the same period saw the area devoted to permanent pasture shrink by 11% as farmers focused on field crops. In fact, between 1980 and 1997, the number of farms with livestock dropped by 47% - although the actual number of cattle only fell by 5%. And while the number of dairy cows dropped by 20%, milk production remained stable.
The number of pigs, however, rose from 88 million in 1980 to 108 million in 1997. The appearance of large-scale pig farming was particularly marked in Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom, where the average piggery has 550 animals - several times the EU average. Small-scale pig farming (under 25 animals per farm) has almost disappeared.
The appearance of such large-scale animal husbandry brings its own problems, with farms importing large amounts of animal feed and producing more animal manure than local farms need, leading to significant pollution problems (see ' nutrient surplus').
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This briefing is part of the EEA's report The European Environment - State and Outlook 2015. The EEA is an official agency of the EU, tasked with providing information on Europe’s environment.
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