... and Potential Opportunities
Mountain agriculture will not be able to survive solely on production proceeds in the future. While subsidisation will continue, the agricultural sector will depend stronger on its innovation ability. The sector will need to deal less with the structural adaptation of the farm to agro-political framework conditions, but more with adjusting it to the new situation. Agricultural enterprises need to become multifunctional ventures managed by independent, well-trained, informed and responsible farmers. The self-image of the farmer will have to adjust to the new framework conditions. In this context, the agricultural sector depends on a moderate structural change as well as a high amount of innovation and initiative. For example of innovative ideas concerning agriculture in the Alps, see also the tutorial "Regional Value Added".
Certainly, the future of the remaining agricultural sector in the mountains is not based on the production of mass products. What is more, since climate and topographic conditions offer merely a few alternatives to the traditional product portfolio, a diversification of income generation and new services, niche products and the refinement of high-quality products become increasingly important. Product safety and health are vital factors in this regard. One of the options would be to guarantee a production unmodified by genetic engineering in the Alpine Convention area, including the entire production cycle (food additives) of foodstuffs and biomass. Agricultural tourism is another opportunity for additional income. Agricultural enterprises could accommodate tourists or offer other services. Given that certain preconditions are fulfilled, the generation of energy from biomass would also be an option.
The agricultural sector will depend stronger on its innovation ability in the future. In Pfronten for example, a value added chain based on hay proved to be successful (Source: www.pfronten.de).
The cooperation between the agricultural sector on the one hand and processors and marketers of agricultural products on the other hand needs to be improved in order to achieve a better and more strategic placement of the enhanced products on the market (skilful marketing, continuous quality assurance, union of production and marketing cooperatives, cooperation with the commercial sector).
Farmers will have to consider delivering services to the society more frequently and have to adjust their production processes correspondingly. Moreover, the agricultural sector needs to accept that socio-political demands should be taken into account with regard to a farmís orientation. This is particularly important whenever the agricultural production is supported or subsidised by public funds. Eight out of ten EU citizens advocate a cutback of subsidies for the agricultural sector, should it not comply with environmental, animal-protection and food-safety requirements (European Commission 2007, Agricultural and Rural Development GD 2007).