Institute of

Farm Economics

Deputy Director


Kerstin Martens
Institute of Farm Economics

Bundesallee 50
38116 Braunschweig
Phone: +49 531 596 5102
Fax: +49 531 596 5199


Socially recognised and profitable - can this be combined?

Agriculture is shaped by individuals. In Germany several hundred thousand people on farms and in the food industry decide which agricultural products are produced where and how - and what side effects this entails. As our society is not indifferent to how food is produced and how agricultural structures develop, policymakers are called on again and again to introduce "safeguards" and to influence market development.

Farms and enterprises in the agricultural sector face stiff regional and international competition. Therefore, they cannot afford to voluntarily accept less profitable solutions. That’s why political decision-makers provide financial incentives for certain forms of production. Frequently however, they reduce entrepreneurs’ scope for action by imposing regulations.

In order to be able to give advice to policymakers about how they can satisfy the differing societal demands made on the agricultural sector without, at the same time, jeopardising the goal of competitive agriculture we examine (a) how individual production methods, types of farm and the overall agricultural sector are affected when technical, economic and political framework conditions change, (b) how they can adapt and what consequences this has (competitiveness, income, structural change, environmental effects) and (c) what measures policymakers can take in order to achieve agricultural and social policy goals.

In this context we take into account the highly diverse agricultural structures and production systems in the various regions of Germany and the close involvement of German agriculture and the food industry in international competition. At the same time, we look at how the adaptation options of the agricultural sector change as a consequence of technical progress and political framework conditions.

For major branches of German agriculture we examine international competitiveness. This is done, for example, in the worldwide agri benchmark network which is lead scientifically by the Thünen Institute. In collaboration with the Thünen Institute of Market Analysis we look at the entire value chain: farm, processing, trade and consumption. Furthermore, we analyse the impact on individual farms of diverse measures of German and European agricultural policy like, for example, agricultural investment funding or the support of organic farming.

In the Thünen Model Network we estimate - together with the Thünen Institutes of Rural Studies and Market Analysis - the impact of political management options on German agriculture with the help of representative data sets and models

Fields of Activity

The Common Agricultural Policy strongly influences agriculture (© Franko)
EU Agricultural Policy
The EU's common agricultural policy affects the situation and development of agriculture by numerous supportive and regulatory measures.
We provide orientation in the data overload (©  lucadp/123RF Stock Foto)
Economic Situation and Factor Input
The description and analysis of agricultural incomes are of great importance since they form the basis for political interventions at national and European level.
New structures in agriculture (©  BLE, Bonn/Dominic Menzler und Thünen-Institut/BW)
Farm and Enterprise Structures
The agricultural sector of today is hardly comparable to what it was 30 years ago.
Wettbewerbsfähigkeit lässt sich mit einer Vielzahl von Indikatoren messen (©  Thünen-Institut/BW)
Maintaining and improving the competitiveness of our agriculture plays a paramount role in the decision making process of companies, politics and society.
Drone with camera (©  Thünen-Institut/Thomas de Witte)
New Technologies / Innovations
From a historical perspective, agriculture has always been driven by technological progress. During the 1950s, one farmer could feed only about ten people – today it’s more than 130.
Resource efficiency in agriculture has to be improved tremendously. (©  aid infodienst/Peter Meier)
Environmental Protection and Sustainability
Even though substantial progress has been achieved in many respects, environmental problems induced by agriculture still represent a major challenge to our society.
Tiergerechtheit der Nutztierhaltung (©  Thünen-Institut/BW)
Animal Protection and Animal Welfare
Animal welfare of livestock is not only a topic for social debate; also from a scientific point of view a variety of problems is discussed. Examples are painful procedures such as dehorning, castration and debeaking, high morbidity and mortality rates as well as the severely restricted normal behaviour in common husbandry systems.
Control of fruits and vegetables (©  fotolia/Markus Bormann)
Food Safety
Besides health consequences food crises can also cause serious economic damages to the different steps of the supply chain. This became apparent through incidences such as the EHEC outbreak in Germany in 2011.

Production Systems

Crop farming in South Africa (©  Thünen-Institut/Yelto Zimmer)
Cash Crops
“Our daily bread….” - how is it produced and how much does it cost? Compared to 20 years ago, today German and European crop farmers face a much stronger global competition when they market cereals but also oilseeds and sugar.
Biogasproduction in Germany (©  Thünen-Institut/Michael Welling)
Renewable Resources
In order to reduce the negative effects of fossil energy consumption, politics promote the use and the production of renewable raw materials.
Tomatoes for the fresh market – production in Moroccan greenhouses (©  Thünen-Institut/Walter Dirksmeyer)
Besides arable farming, primary plant production also encompasses specialty crops. Fruits, vegetables, ornamental plants, herbaceous perennial and woody crops belong to the horticultural sector.
Organic farming offers numerous environmental services such as the enhancement of biodiversity. (©  BLE, Bonn/Dominic Menzler)
Organic Farming
Organic farming implies an especially resource and environmental friendly form of land use. Therefore, the Federal Government appreciates the conversion of farms; in the context of its sustainability strategy it pursues the objective to shape the regulatory framework in such a way that in the coming years organic farming can obtain 20 % of the agricultural used land.
Cow-calf and sheep production are important users of grassland (©  Thünen-Institut/Katja Seifert)
Beef and Sheep
85 percent of the beef produced in Germany has its origin in the dairy herd. Cattle inventories are constantly declining. The main reasons are the increase of milk yields per cow which coincides with the existence of the milk quota – at least until its abolishment in 2015.
Piglets in straw (©  fotolia/Mixalina)
Pig and Poultry
Pork and poultry meat are the most popular meat varieties in Germany. Out of the total meat consumption of around 60 kg in 2013, 38 kg account for pork and 12 kg account for poultry meat.
Feeding plays an important role in milk production. (©  Thünen-Institut/Birthe Lassen)
With a market share of more than 20 percent, Germany is the biggest milk producer of the EU. Approximately 30 percent of the agricultural farms in Germany keep dairy cows. Milk production is the most important livestock branch and usually contributes with around 18 percent the biggest proportion to the production value of German agriculture.



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