South Tyrol has a centuries-old farming tradition. Even if today agriculture no longer has the same sociopolitical importance as other economic sectors that it had decades ago nevertheless this farming tradition does affect many areas of life. The significance of agriculture in South Tyrol goes far beyond its economic effects. Its contribution to the maintenance of the cultivated area and living space creates vital conditions for other economic sectors and for the maintenance of a healthy quality of life.
Above all it is directed at high quality domestic production to ensure the competitiveness of South Tyrolese products as well as the maintenance of agriculture in mountain areas in particular through an additional or secondary occupation in order to create conditions and circumstances for the maintenance of income levels for family farms. It is in the highest interest of the Province to keep an adequate number of the farming population on the land even in extreme areas and to that end to take advantage of all possibilities at European national and provincial level.
The first step to translate the declaration of intent into deeds has been completed. For the first time farmers have the possibility of applying for additional funds for an agricultural production process that is environmentally friendly and protects the natural living space. Next an all-embracing programme for the development of the countryside will be drawn up and put before the EU authorities. Even for the milk quota problem which has lasted for years a satisfactory solution can be found. With these measures and through specific support from the Provincial budget the aims laid down in the government's programme will be pursued. In South Tyrol the farmer is the natural guardian of the countryside and guarantor for the protection of the cultivated land.
In 1993 about 12.5 per cent of the gainfully employed worked in agriculture about 26 000 persons of whom most were men. The farmers in South Tyrol are overwhelmingly German or Ladin speakers. In 1993 about 6 per cent of the total economic output of the Province came from agriculture. More than 60 per cent of the farms in South Tyrol are not able to depend on agricultural income alone and must therefore acquire an additional occupation. In the last ten years the proportion of farms with such additional occupations has constantly increased and in all probability will continue to increase in the future as many a farm fully employed in agriculture will no longer be in a position to obtain from agriculture alone an income comparable to that found in non-agricultural sectors.
A special legal guarantee for the maintenance of viable family farms in South Tyrol is the establishment of the "entailed" farm system. This legal institution basically guarantees to the inheritor of a farm that he will succeed to the entire farm and thus farm fragmentation is avoided. In South Tyrol there are about 12 500 "entailed" farms. Of the 27 000 or so farms about 18 000 are to be found in mountain areas; the average size of these 18 000 farms is 7.37 hectares. According to the agricultural census of 1990 in South Tyrol the land devoted to agriculture covers 272 466 hectares and to forestry 291 078 hectares while 76 036 hectares are unproductive. Fruit takes up 17 600 hectares and wine about 5 000 hectares.
In 1994 the pip-fruit (apples and pears) harvest amounted to about 80 230 10-ton railway-wagon loads and wine production to 400 000 hectolitres (30 per cent of which was white wine). In 1994 the 11 200 animal farms contained 144 000 cows particularly the brown grey and spotted varieties 35 000 sheep 12 100 goats 27 000 pigs and 3 720 horses. Milk production amounted to about 350 million litres of which 278 were delivered to dairies.
The area under vegetable production is estimated at about 440 hectares in which cauliflowers beetroots iceberg lettuce and radicchio (chicory) are particularly cultivated. An area of 220 hectares serves the cultivation of seed-potatoes. In recent years the area for cultivating medicinal and aromatic herbs has been expanded to 2 hectares. The main area is in Upper Vinschgau (Val Venosta) with nearly 1.4 hectares. One-third of the area under intensive cultivation has at its disposal a sprinkler-system.
For the cultivation of farmable land over 79 000 agricultural machines are in operation. In South Tyrol there are 1 700 alpine pastures mostly in private hands with a total of 248 000 hectares to which 95 000 cows are driven each year in early summer. About 308 hectares in South Tyrol are classified as woodland areas with spruce larches and Scots pine predominating. 68 per cent of this wooded area is in private hands. In South Tyrol trees (known as the farmer's savings bank) are not only useful for the over 22 000 owners of woodland but also have several vital functions - protection of the soil and property socially in regard to drinking water and air filtering and in regard to recreation.
The woodland eco-system is protected with special laws and its state of health regularly and extensively monitored. In 1994 about 28 per cent of South Tyrol's woodland was damaged (24 per cent by unknown causes and 4 per cent by known causes). In thinly forested and erosion-prone areas particularly Vinschgau (Val Venosta) a considerable reforestation programme is in progress.
Care and protection as well as the strict shooting laws have led to an increase in the numbers of hoofed game in South Tyrol in the last decades with the declared aim of the South Tyrolese game shooting and fishing industry being the preservation and improvement of the living space of South Tyrol's diverse fauna. Interesting from the shooting point of view but problematic from that of the provincial habitat are the wild ruminants. The number of roe-deer is estimated at 38 000 chamois at 16 000 red- deer at 3 500 and ibex at 500. In 1994 8 800 roe-deer 3 740 chamois 1 200 red-deer and 40 ibexes were shot. About 6 per cent of South Tyrol's lakes and streams are fishable. Two-thirds of the fish in South Tyrol are trout.