Rural Congress Expresses Concern for Future of Family Farming ({{commentsTotal}})

The Estonian Farmers Federation has issued a public appeal calling for the term "family farm" to be protected under national law and restrictions to be placed on sales of cropland and forest to foreign nationals.

The document was released closely on the heels of the congress of the Estonian farmers which held its 25th anniversary meeting in Paide last week, where many speakers talked about the situation facing small farms in Estonia in light of 2014 being the UN's International Year of Family Farming.

The congress said Estonia has not been able to create an environment conducive to small farms like the ones in the Nordics and Western Europe, where families own an average of 80 percent of cropland.

"It's unacceptable that Estonia, along with Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria and France, Estonia is among the five countries in Europe where family farms have under 50 percent of the land used in agriculture and this trend is deepening."

Compared to big agribusiness, small producers get 40 percent less in EU agricultural subsidies than the EU average. Statistics show that the number of producers is decreasing at a faster and faster rate.

In 2001, Estonia still had 55,748 agricultural households, most family farms, the number was down to 19,613 by 2010, with only 9,679 engaged in animal husbandry.

Statistics show that foreigners control only 5 percent of cropland, but the figure is at 15 percent of all agricultural land, plus thousands of hectare of forest and other land.

A large part of the EU assistance meant for Estonia ends up leaving the country, said the congress.