FA1 Active farms and arable area

  This is a pressure (P) indicator. DPSIR = drivers, pressures, state, impact, responses. Moderate positive impact on biodiversity in the 20th century prior to 1990 (background). Moderate declining trend of positive impact since 1990 (arrow).
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The decrease in the number of active farms and increase in their average size have continued for the past two decades. In 2012 there were 59 000 active farms in Finland. Since 1990 the number of farms has halved. The decrease in numbers has been strongest in North Karelia and Kainuu regions in eastern Finland.

During the same time period, the average area of arable land per farm has doubled, reaching 39 hectares in 2012.
Average farm size has increased mainly because more fields are now rented and also because relatively more small sized farms have been closed down. Both the decrease in the number of farms and the increase in the average field area have been slightly slower during the early 21st century than in the 1990s.

The smaller number of farms has not had any great effect on the total area of fields in agricultural use. Fields of the farms that have been closed down have mainly been leased or sold to other farmers. Most closed farms used to have livestock and many have continued farming their fields even after giving up the cattle. Small livestock farms often do not have real chances to sustain themselves economically because of new requirements for the treatment of manure, for example.


Impact on biodiversity

During the era of tradional animal husbandry small farms used to maintain high species diversity in agricultural landscapes. Besides meadows and wooded pastures small farms used to have relatively more extensively used areas such as field margins.

The structural changes in agriculture do not necessarily lead to decreasing biodiversity. In practice, however, this has most often been the case. Increasing farm sizes generally lead to more intense and homogenous land use. Field parcels become more uniform and bigger and a smaller number of arable plants are cultivated on them.

The animals of a big livestock farm spend less time on pastures due to efficiency demands. Cows that live in a big freestall barn may never go out pasture at all.

This indicator is updated annually in February-March.  

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