From grain, sugar beet and potatoes through fruit, vegetables, milk, eggs and meat to excellent wines and tobacco – the diversity of agricultural production in Rhineland-Palatinate is unique in Germany.
The farming and winemaking families in Rhineland-Palatinate and their products ensure healthy, enjoyable nutrition with locally-grown high-quality products. The so-called “RheinPfalz Vegetable Garden” is the largest contiguous vegetable-growing area in Germany. In particular, radishes (almost four fifths of Germany’s total production!), bunching onions, carrots, onions, asparagus, cabbage and lettuce grow here on over 19,000 hectares. The six wine-making areas in Rhineland-Palatinate – the Ahr, Central Rhine, Moselle, Nahe, the Palatinate and Rhenish Hesse – encompass 64,000 hectares and 320 million vine stocks, which is about two thirds of all german grapevines.
Agriculture and winemaking in Rhineland-Palatinate are an important economic factor. Over 44,000 permanent employees and another 46,500 seasonal employees work in 17,500 vineyards. The 410,000 hectares of arable land, 225.000 hectares of pasture and 70,000 hectares of permanent crops (vineyards and orchards) earn some three billion euros and gross value-added of over one billion euros. In addition, the daily work of these occupations creates and preserves a cultural landscape that not only makes Rhineland-Palatinate pleasant and a place worth living in for its residents but also makes the state an attractive destination for tourists from elsewhere in Germany and from all over the world. The steep hillsides of the Moselle, the Ahr and Central Rhine, together with the Rhine Plain, hilly Rhenish Hesse and the Mittelgebirge (the Central German Uplands), which are characterised by animal husbandry and grassland management, contribute to this image as well.
Family owned and managed operations and small-unit (“patchwork”) land-structures are typical of the Rhineland-Palatinate and make this diversity possible. At the same time, the latest production methods, excellently-trained managers and a sense of responsibility to nature, the environment and future generations form the basis for sustainable management. In doing so, the companies operate under demanding and constantly-changing basic conditions, which make continual adaptation necessary: globalisation coupled with structural change and volatile markets, changing demands by society, political circles, climate change, digitisation and restrictions in production by corresponding legislation. Successfully overcoming these challenges requires strong professional representation. As a representative organisation, the Mainz-based Southern Rhineland-Palatinate Farmers’ and Vintners’ Association (BWV) promotes the interests and concerns of these occupational groups. The BWV originated in 1990 from the merger of the Rhenish Hesse Farmers’ Association and the Palatinate Farmers’ and Vintner’s Association and today has some 12,000 members in the Rhenish Hesse and Palatinate regions.
Tighter regulations, excessive bureaucracy and more and more official requirements accelerate structural change, particularly in small-unit areas, and increase production costs. As a result, the profitability of many forms of cropping decreases until growing is no longer worth it. This threatens the diversity of agriculture in Rhineland-Palatinate over the mid-term. Against this background, the core task of the BWV is agricultural and winemaking decision-making. Its priority aim is not only the long-term maintenance of farming and winemaking in Rhineland-Palatinate, regardless of the type of production and size, but also the retention of decision-making freedom in crop-planning. To achieve this aim, the BWV as a state farmers’ association is primarily concerned with all policy areas to do with winemaking and agriculture at state level. But the bundling of regional interests is also of major importance with regard to a continually expanding transfer of agricultural and winemaking decision-making to federal and especially EU level. Only by adopting coordinated and uniform positions will it be possible to promote regional interests that satisfy production conditions and the justified interests of local operations. If this fails, higher-level decisions involve the risk of undermining particular interests, with considerable consequences for individual regions in some cases.
In addition, the already very high and continually rising production and market requirements on farmers and winemakers in Rhineland-Palatinate demand reliable information and positions. Giving comprehensive advice to members on various current issues and innovations connected with farming and winemaking is another of the core competences of the BWV, such as providing accounting and taxation services.
Through these activities, the BWV actively contributes to the future viability of agriculture and winemaking in Rhineland-Palatinate and hence to agricultural diversity. This diversity is also secured by the trend to a regional focus. With an increasing number of consumers, the future of purchased products is playing a greater role again, particularly in the field of nutrition. With its comprehensive range of agricultural and oenological products, Rhineland-Palatinate is more than catering to this demand in the field of foodstuffs and is thus equipped to handle this growing interest in local products. Rhineland-Palatinate: an agricultural full-range producer and supplier with a future!
The author comes from a farming family. She studied agriculture, majoring in management, and has worked for the Southern Rhineland-Palatinate Farmers’ and Vintners’ Association in Mainz since 1999. She was appointed as deputy general manager in 2005 before being promoted general manager in 2014.