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.
Policies to reduce agricultural greenhouse gas emissions are more effective and more efficient if they are set at the regional level and not at the level of individual farms. This can help achieve climate targets.
Global food availability is expected to remain stable in the medium term. Food security challenges in Switzerland include the decline in agricultural land area per capita, higher incidence of extreme weather events and increased pressure from pests.
Different cultural backgrounds lead to different uptake of biodiversity agri-environmental schemes at the inner-Swiss French-German language border. Economic policy incentives could mitigate culture-driven behavioral differences.