The Ministry’s history since 1949 

Niklas, Lübke, Schwarz, Höcherl, Ertl, Kiechle, Borchert, Funke, Künast, Seehofer, Aigner, Friedrich, Schmidt, Klöckner - all these politicians have led the Ministry of Agriculture, which was founded in 1949. Cem Özdemir was appointed Federal Minister of Agriculture in December 2021. In the following, we would like to provide you with an overview of the Ministry’s milestones over the last 70 years.

The beginning

Only a few months after the Federal Republic of Germany was founded, the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Forestry started its work in September 1949. It was located in former barracks in the then-independent town of Duisdorf close to Bonn.

The first Federal Minister of Agriculture was Prof. Dr. Wilhelm Niklas in the Cabinet of Chancellor Adenauer. The main initial task was to improve food security because food was rationed until 1950. The most pressing issues for farmers were to obtain sufficient inputs and adequate prices.

The 50s

In the early 50s, market regulations were introduced for cereals, feed, sugar, milk and fats and for the livestock and meat industry. They provided agricultural production with a reliable framework. There was a prolonged period of economic growth (the German "economic miracle"); hunger was a thing of the past and incomes were on the rise. The aim was for farmers to benefit from this as well. Heinrich Lübke , became Minister of Agriculture in 1953 and oversaw the adoption of the Agriculture Act. This Act was intended to enable the agricultural sector to participate in the general economic upturn. The “Green Plan” promoted structural improvements in agriculture.

Another important course for agriculture was set in the 50s: The Treaties of Rome founded the European Economic Community in 1957. The EEC was the cradle of today’s European Union. It was also the starting point for a common European agricultural policy which was to have a lasting effect on the development of German agriculture. In 1959, Werner Schwarz became Minister of Agriculture.

The 60s

In times of growing prosperity on the one hand and the Cold War on the other hand, Europe’s Western countries grew closer together. The common agricultural market of the European Communities was established hand in hand with the common price policy.

In 1965, Herrman Höcherl was appointed Minister of Agriculture. Even in the face of the trend towards larger holdings, family farms remained the guiding vision of national agricultural policy in the Federal Republic of Germany. Agricultural policy was more closely integrated with other areas of policy, such as spatial planning and social policy.

A further cornerstone of agricultural policy was laid in the 60s: in 1968, the Grand Coalition laid the foundation in the Constitution for the Joint Task for the Improvement of Agricultural Structures and Coastal Protection, a joint task by the national government and the Länder. The new Market Structure Act promoted agricultural producer organisations.

The 70s

In the 70s, the Ministry of Agriculture was led by Josef Ertl who was in office from 1969 to 1982. The European Community was expanded. Volatile exchange rates took a toll on farmers. Compensation payments were introduced for the agricultural sector to cushion the impact of appreciation. Surpluses for key agricultural products rose continuously, triggering ever greater market imbalances. In this period, individual farm support played an increasingly important role. With the individual farm support, the Joint Task for the Improvement of Agricultural Structures and Coastal Protection became the backbone of national agricultural policy. Independent social security for farmers was further expanded.

The Animal Welfare Act (1972), the Federal Forest Act (1975) and the Federal Nature Conservation Act (1976) underpinned a change of mindset within society. These Acts also regulated new demands being made of forestry and agriculture. Environmental protection, animal welfare and consumer protection became increasingly important.

The 80s

Several ministers were at the helm of the Ministry of Agriculture in the early 80s: following the end of the social-liberal coalition in 1982, the then Minister of Education Björn Engholm led the Ministry of Agriculture for 14 days. In the coalition between the CDU and the FDP, Josef Ertl became Minister of Agriculture again, before Ignaz Kiechle took over in 1983.

During these years, German agriculture suffered from ever-rising surpluses. In the dairy sector, these were tackled by introducing a guaranteed quantity regime. For the first time, farmers received European funds for setting aside agricultural land. Measures were adopted at national level to support family farms, for instance compensatory allowances for less-favoured areas, cuts in social security contributions for those working in agriculture and tax breaks.  In 1986, the responsibility for nature conservation was transferred to the newly founded Federal Ministry for Environment (BMU).

The 90s

German reunification marked a sea change for Germany and Europe. Upon reunification, the Ministry of Agriculture was tasked with providing economic and social support in guiding the shift from the planned economy-style agriculture of the former GDR.  The privatised holdings had to be integrated into the European market. The Ministry established a second office in Berlin.

In 1993, Jochen Borchert was appointed Minister of Agriculture. In 1992, the European Union paved the way for promoting a more market-orientated and sustainable agriculture. Organic farming and the growing of renewable resources provided opportunities to address the surpluses. New sources of income were tapped in non-agricultural sectors as well.

In the coalition between the Social Democrats and the Green Party, Karl-Heinz Funke became Minister of Agriculture in 1998. In 1999, European agricultural reform continued with the Agenda 2000. Agricultural policy was guided by the principle of a diverse agricultural sector that not only produced food and raw materials but also performed tasks to benefit society, such as landscape stewardship and nature conservation.

2000 - 2010

In 2000, the government moved from Bonn to Berlin and the Berlin Office of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture was established in Wilhelmstraße 54. In 2001, during the BSE crisis, the Ministry of Agriculture's remit was expanded to include consumer protection and food safety. Renate Künast was appointed Federal Minister of Consumer Protection, Food and Agriculture The area of consumer protection was expanded, the food safety system was restructured and organic farming received more funding and support. The European Union's agricultural reform in 2003 largely decoupled agricultural support from production.

Following a short stint by the then Minister of the Environment, Jürgen Trittin, as acting Minister of Agriculture, Horst Seehofer  assumed office in 2005 in the second Grand Coalition. Particular attention was devoted to the future of rural areas, to preventing food scandals, to controlling animal diseases and to providing information and advice on healthy diets and consumer health protection.

In 2008, Ilse Aigner took the helm at the Ministry. A broad discussion was launched on the Charter for Agriculture and Consumers to come up with solutions for conflicts between competitiveness and societal demands. Economic consumer protection focused increasingly on the handling of personal data on the internet.

Since 2010

In late 2013, the EU approved a CAP reform. This reform stuck to the course of a market orientated agricultural sector while reacting to the manifold and changing demands of society: an even greater focus was placed on remunerating services to society and advancing the integration of environmental services into the CAP.  The support for rural areas within the EU was continuously reinforced.

In September 2013, Ilse Aigner, who accompanied the process, stepped down.  Dr. Hans-Peter Friedrich, the then Federal Minister of the Interior, was appointed as acting Minister of Agriculture. When the new government was formed in 2013, he was appointed Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture. The responsibility for economic and legal consumer protection was moved from the BMEL to the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection. The responsibility for consumer health protection remained at the BMEL.

When Federal Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich left in 2014, Christian Schmidt took over. Responding to the growing demand by society for reliable information on nutrition, he founded the Federal Centre for Food and Nutrition, which provides consumers with reliable and independent information. He also acknowledged changing societal demands by establishing the German Centre for the Protection of Laboratory Animals (Bf3R), which is located at the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR). In view of the growing importance of rural development, also due to demographic change, he set up a new directorate-general to focus on this topic.

In March 2018, Julia Klöckner became Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture She placed a greater focus on the opportunities provided by new technologies by setting up a directorate on digital innovation and by establishing digital trial fields in rural areas to enhance resource conservation, reduce workloads and improve the measurement of animal welfare. In Brussels, she championed higher environmental standards in the Common Agricultural Policy and remuneration for meeting these standards. The area of nutrition and food was expanded, for instance by the introduction of clear and simple nutritional labelling.


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