From "Reports on Agriculture", December 2004

Why are the dominating areas of agricultural food production not identical with the initial farming regions?

By H. Hartge, Hannover, R. Horn, Kiel and H. Kretschmer, Rostock

The analysis of the soil water status as the main criterion for plant growth and crop rotation was essential since the early beginning of plant production. It resulted in expressions like arable land or wheat/sugar beet soil. When fertilisation became more commonly known and applied the subject soil water status was forgotten, also because it could not be regulated artificially in those days. Since, however, the mass and the power of the agricultural machinery increases because of economical reasons, this situation has changed completely. Meanwhile, the consequences of such development become more obvious. Thus, the following requests are to be pronounced:

  1. The tendency of additional mass increase of agricultural equipment must be judged sceptically, because of an enhanced soil deformation. Alterations in size and intensity of areas with stagnic soil properties and visual prevented plant growth must be controlled thoroughly. In those areas where such ponding water situations are available, all field treatments and machine applications have to be carried out with lighter machines. Furthermore, alternative cropping and tillage systems must be applied. If on the other hand no signs of any stagnic water features or erosion processes can be detected, we can continue with the present cropping and agricultural machinery systems.
  2. Prevention to indicate especially the energy and total mass of the agricultural machineries as the major argument for further machine development strategies. Such monocausal argumentation endangers increasingly the sustainability of soil and land use systems.
  3. The definitions of maximum machine mass as well as soil bulk density values can be only regarded as a transient solution, because it would suggest a final value which because of the complexity can not be linked to a single value. Furthermore, we have to keep in mind that the protection and conservation of the water household problems is of main interests especially in those climatic regions with high plant productivity.
  4. Although there are enormous problems in plant production concerning mechanisation and farming strategies, with respect to prevent further soil structure degradation, aeration, and hydraulic properties, we assume that the most dominant areas for crop production will remain in those most sensitive regions. We derive this from the experience, that in general long-term knowledge is available in plant production and we also understand how to alter and/or to prevent such soil degradation. Such problems can and must be solved, because it finally decides about the future not only in grain production but also about the complete agricultural plant production.

Decision support for the formation of agri-environmental programmes: An interactive, computer-aided programming approach for Saxony-Anhalt

By D. Kirschke, A. Häger, K. Jechlitschka und S. Wegener, Berlin, E. Daenecke and K. Kästner, Magdeburg

In this article we demonstrate how policy-making in complex systems can be supported by cooperation between scientists, policy-makers and administrators. Using an interactive computer-aided programming approach the case of improving the Agri-Environmental Program of Saxony-Anhalt is examined. Based of interactive simulations considering the several influence factors (like level of co-financing, budget, priorities) and a participating approach together with stakeholders the approach can substantially contribute to political strategy development.

Use of Set-aside Land According to the European Union Regulation and Use of Biotope Sites according to the Federal German Nature Conservation Act for Protecting the Environment, Soils, Landscapes, Nature, Species and Biotopes

By Dietmar Schröder, Trier

The objectives and measures of the European Union (EU) set-aside scheme and of the Federal Nature Conservation Act should be harmonized. The land to be set aside in each case is of relatively low production value, so that achieving an agreement should be quite easy.

The "priority conservation areasö of both schemes should be subdivided into a central area without any agricultural use and a second marginal area used as extensive grassland. Arable land should only be used "sustainably", id est with a production intensity which excludes most negative external effects. The conservation of valuable landscape elements is already regulated well by the Direct Payments Commit­ment Ordinance and the 2004-2007 framework plan of the Joint Task for the Improvement of Agricultural Structures and Coastal Protection (GAK) and the eligible support funds by the EU, yet it must be extended to include the "renaturation of cleared-out landscapesö.

This leads to yield losses and hence establishes a market balance and eases the pressure on the national economy in terms of market organisation costs and external costs. This creates some leeway for slightly increased farm prices so that consumers, producers and the environment could benefit. Set-aside land (marginal soils) which cannot be used profitably for the production of food and feed should be used for environmentally sound energy production, mainly biogas production from extensively farmed grassland.

Concerning the requirements of environmental protection it has to be stated that no effective improvement of the environmental situation is achieved although some elements for the granting of environmental premia are projected. The set of indicators presented here is much more consistent in its effect.

Impact of the mid-term review decisions on the dairy sector

By Werner Kleinhanss and Silke Hüttel, Braunschweig

At the end of June 2003, a fundamental reform of the common agricultural policy (CAP) was adopted. The milk market reform provides for cuts in support prices as well as for milk premiums that will have to be included into the decoupled payment volume not later than 2007. Germany also strives to implement a shift of the premium system towards uniform payment entitlements based on areas (hybrid model). This article aims to analyze the possible impact of this reform on dairy farms, using a farm group model representative of the German agricultural sector. The scenario analyses refer to the target year 2010. Alongside different price trends for milk, two options of shaping decoupling via the single farm payment or the hybrid model are being examined compared with a continuation of the previous agricultural policy. The following results arise from the simulation runs. Given unfavourable milk price trends, the milk quota will no longer be exhausted in some regions. A shift of milk production in favour of larger holdings emerges as a result of the trade in quotas. The milk price cuts and decoupling result in a steep drop of prices for the milk quota. The regionally differentiated area payments according to the hybrid model are expected to cause relatively pronounced redistributions of premiums as well as an increase in the rental prices for grassland that will be primarily at the expense of dairy farms with high milk production per ha of main forage area.

Optimisation of asparagus production, harvesting and handling methods

By Monika Schreiner, Stefanie Schmidt and Ilona Schonhof, Großbeeren,
Christoph Wonneberger, Osnabrück, Peter-J. Paschold
and Jürgen Jaki, Geisenheim,
Martin Geyer und Sibylle Tischer, Bornim, Joachim Ziegler, Neustadt,
Hans-R. Rohlfing, Oppenheim, Wolfgang Bokelmann
and Georg Ruhm, Berlin

The concern and objective of the project Optimisation of asparagus production, harvesting and handling methods was to draw up generally valid foundations aimed at both the Federal Ministry of Consumer Protection, Food and Agriculture and gardeners to support their decision-making at national and also farm level for developing the asparagus cultivation in the context of changing ecological, economic and social framework conditions on the basis of the comprehensive results.

The effects of changes of the social and economic policy environment and of the process engineering potential on the economic viability and implementability in the asparagus production, harvesting and handling process were made transparent and comprehensible with the help of the achieved results. This way they facilitate the timely assessment of a necessary adjustment need.

Legislation to strengthen family farms and their impact on pig farming in the USA

By Hans-Wilhelm Windhorst, Vechta

Pig production in the USA is presently characterised by a strong sectoral and regional dynamic. In addition to a fast sectoral concentration process, new pig production centres have developed since the 1990s. The impact laws and regulations have on these two processes is shown by a case study for the northern and central states of the Great Plains. It is obvious that in states where no legal restrictions prohibit capital investments of agri-industrial companies, so-called non-family corporations, into plant and animal production, pig farming has rapidly expanded since the 1980, whereas in states where such laws had been adopted, a stagnation or even decrease in pig farming can be observed. In Nebraska, the Initiative 300, which was added to the constitution of the state in the early 1980s, exerted a great influence. This amendment is currently subject to a controversial debate as it has obviously become an obstacle to the expansion of animal production, also on family farms. On the other side, the unchecked expansion of industrialised pig production has reached a plateau in Oklahoma. Ecological problems as well as a grow­ing opposition of the non-farming population to a further expansion of large-scale plants are the key controlling factors. This does not, however, necessarily mean the end of the growing importance of industrialised pig production as new plants are being developed or planned in Texas and some Rocky Mountain states.

The Employment of Seasonal Farm Workers from Central- and Eastern European Countries in German Agriculture

By Sebastian Hess, Göttingen

Farm labor migration from Central and Eastern European Countries (CEEC) to Germany is a system of circulative labor migration without evidence of permanent immigration. Within the farm labor market, an official and an informal sector exist. This paper presents calculated seasonal labor requirements per month within German states for a survey of 126 labor intensive crops and agricultural products. The calculations are based on modified Kuratorium für Technik und Bauwesen in der Landwirtschaft (KTBL) values for labor requirements per hectare which are multiplied with the number of hectares planted with a specific crop. In addition, adjustments for yearly variations of yields have been made. The results indicate that the informal labor market remains important although policy during the eight year survey period has successfully reduced activity within this sector. In future, CEEC farm workers will most likely continue to substitute for German family labor and complement structural change. German labor market conditions reduce mobility of domestic workers into the farm labor sector. The future of farm labor migration after eastward enlargement of the European Union (EU) remains in question.

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