Die Bodenkultur - Journal for Land Management, Food and Environment

W. Schneeberger, M. Eder, L. Lacovara and J. C. Garcia-Rosell:

A comparison of the economic performance of organic and conventional farms in Austria


The accounting data of voluntarily book keeping farms for the farm accounting network are the basis for the comparison of conventional and organic farms, both forage and cash crops growing farms. The high number of forage growing farms (most of them dairy farms) participating in the farm accounting data network allows for a comparison differentiating between geographic location according to the farm sites classification of the EU and the Austrian zones for mountain farms. Because of the small number of organic cash crops growing farms, only one comparison group could be identified. The holdings included in the comparison groups were selected to obtain groups with about the same average size of the agricultural area. For the forage growing farms a comparison was also made with paired holdings.

In 1999 the organic forage growing farms had, in four out of the seven groups compared, a higher net income from agriculture and forestry than the conventional farms. In a comparison with paired forage growing holdings, the organic farms performed better. The organic cash crops growing farms also yielded higher net incomes from agriculture and forestry. The results indicate that under the current framework, many organic farms yielded higher net incomes than conventional farms of similar size and comparable structural and personal preconditions. However, before converting, farmers should carefully analyse the particular circumstances of their holdings.

Keywords: farming systems comparisons, organic farming, dairy farms, cash crops growing farms, farm accounting data network.