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Assessing the risk of farmland abandonment in the EU


The JRC has published a new report on farmland abandonment in the EU, in support to the European Commission’s Directorate General for Agriculture and Rural Development.

In order to monitor the integration of environmental concerns into the Common Agricultural Policy, the European Commission set up a system of 28 agri-environmental indicators. These indicators help to assess the impact of agricultural policy decisions on the environment and to guide new policy initiatives.

Concerns have been raised that reductions in EU agricultural support and reforms of trade policy could lead to widespread land abandonment with negative environmental and social consequences. Consequently, the risk of farmland abandonment has been included in the list of the community agri-environmental indicators for reporting at regular intervals.

The study carried out by the JRC, ‘Assessing the risk of farmland abandonment in the EU’, aims to develop a farmland abandonment risk indicator. An expert panel of 12 European scientists in fields related to land management (land suitability, farm structure, farm economics, land market, regional development, social and economic factors in rural areas) was tasked with identifying the main drivers of farmland abandonment in Europe.

The panel proposed two sets of criteria to assess (i) ‘low farm stability and viability’ using parameters on farm income, farm investment level, farmer’s age, farmer’s qualification, farm size and farmer commitment in specific land management schemes, and (ii) ‘negative regional context’ using information on land market, population density and remoteness.

Each of these drivers has been calculated and assessed individually for its data availability and robustness, analytical soundness and policy relevance. Maps covering the EU-27 have been produced at NUTS2 resolution.

A composite index combining all relevant drivers was developed to produce both European and national risk indicators.

The study highlighted the complexity of the farmland abandonment process which can have a wide range of drivers, varying between Member States and sometimes within a single country, depending on the agricultural situation, natural conditions, historic developments and economic and demographic context. Further pan-European statistical and socio-economic data at a finer spatial level will be needed in order to design a unique method for a European assessment that encompasses all possible drivers and causes.

Further information

Terres, J.M., Nisini, L., Anguiano, E. (2013): Assessing the risk of farmland abandonment in the EU - Final Report. EUR 25783 EN

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