Swiss farming families are under pressure as a result of developments in agriculture policies and the economy. For many of them, the income situation is unsatisfactory; some are even in precarious income situations. This article highlights the precarious situation of seven farming families. The reasons behind this precariousness are multi-layered and complex. Two basic patterns can be discerned: (a) a dramatic event causes the fragile financial balance to collapse; (b) the gap between income and expenditure continually grows wider until one day the income is no longer enough. The responses to this precariousness are also varied. Seven strategies have been identified that are sometimes used concurrently, sometimes one after the other: reducing personal expenditure, making operational changes, taking on or increasing additional employment, delaying payments, taking out private loans, applying to foundations or charities, asking for professional help or consciously ignoring the problem. Giving up the farm was not a strategy for any of the households interviewed.
Thanks to their unique landscapes, the 15 Swiss parks, the majority of which are located in the (pre-)Alps and in the Jura Arc, feature as tourist attractions. But do the parks also provide economic value-added for local agriculture?
To balance their nutrient cycles, Swiss farms export surplus farmyard manure to farms with free uptake capacities or to composting and anaerobic digestion facilities. Between 2015 and 2020 the volumes of organic manure and recycled fertilisers transported rose significantly, with a consequent increase in transport costs.
Employment in the agricultural sector is declining in many European countries, especially in livestock farming. Direct payments can counter this trend and lead to the employment of more – especially female – family members on the farm.