Establishment of the Ministry of Agriculture

Building photo of the government building on Stubenring 1
Photo: BML / William Tadros

11 January 1868 saw the birth of the Imperial and Royal Ministry of Agriculture. That means, the Ministry of Agriculture is more than 150 years old. Read about the eventful beginnings of the history of our Ministry.

In the wake of the 1848 March revolution

One of the outcomes of the March Revolution of 1848 was the establishment of the "Ministry of Land Improvement, Trade and Commerce". Its first minister was Baron Anton von Doblhoff-Dier.

After the October Revolution of 1848, the Ministry was merged with the Ministry of Public Works and remained in that form until 1859. In 1859 it was decided to abolish the Ministry of Trade, Commerce and Public Construction. The agendas were distributed among the Ministries of the Interior, Finance and Foreign Affairs.

It was not until 10 April 1861 that the Emperor granted the authorisation for the "Ministry of Trade and Economy". The duties were distributed among six departments: trade affairs, commerce, shipping, mining, forestry and agriculture. There were 110 civil servants. The period that followed and continued until 1867 was a turbulent time marked by internal restructuring, amendments, assignments and cuts. From 1868 until the end of the monarchy, the trade department was called "Imperial and Royal Ministry of Trade". By then, it was responsible for merely the Austrian half of the Empire.

Establishment of the ministry of agriculture in 1868

On 30 December 1867, Count Alfred Potocki was appointed Minister of Agriculture. A few days later, on 11 January 1868, the imperial government assigned the agendas and on 19 January the official Wiener Zeitung announced: "The Ministry of Agriculture has commenced its official duties. As resolved by His Imperial Highness on 11th January this year, the ministry will handle matters pertaining to land improvement and mining. The ministerial offices are located on the second and third floor of the Barbara-Stift building (Postgasse No. 8)."

The new ministry was assigned legislative matters relating to forestry, hunting and country police (Ministry of the Interior) and put in charge of affairs previously handled by the mining accounts department (Ministry of Trade). The supreme administration of the state-owned "state forests, state mines and fund assets" remained with the Ministry of Finance.

Polish aristocrat appointed Austria's first Minister of Agriculture

Count Alfred II Jozef Potocki, born in Landshut (Łańcut) in Galicia and in 1889 in Paris, was a Polish nobleman. Born into a prominent noble family of Polish origin, he became a member of the Imperial Parliament in Vienna in 1848. Initially serving the Diplomatic Corps, he became member of the Upper Chamber ("Herrenhaus") in 1861. From 1863 to 1869 he was member of the Diet of Galicia, and from 1875 until 1877 he was marshal of the province.

From 30 December 1867 until 15 January 1870, Potocki was Imperial and Royal Minister of Agriculture in what was known as the Citizens’ Ministry. He then stepped down over his minority federalist views in the cabinet. On 12 April 1870, the Emperor appointed him Imperial and Royal Prime Minister of Cisleithania and Minister of Defence of the cabinet of civil servants. As he failed to obtain the cooperation of the Czechs in the Reichstag, he stepped down on 6 February 1871.

At an executive level, Potocki was governor of Galicia between 1875 and 1883. Being a liberal-conservative monarchist, he not only supported Emperor Franz-Joseph's empire concept, but also advocated a peaceful solution to the growing Polish-Ukrainian conflict. At home in Galicia, Potocki, who was one of the richest landowners of his time, was known as a moderniser of agriculture and related industries.

Potocki was a pomologist and especially interested in fruit-growing. He established a whole series of large factories for sugar, liqueur, leather, cloth and other items. His farming estates supplied the raw materials for processing. His constant effort to improve the life of the employees working for him deserves special mention.

He initiated a series of improvements in the organisational and legislative area of his department and, among other things, adopted some valuable measures relating to horse breeding. He stepped down in the context of the entire cabinet's resignation. On 12 April 1870, Count Alfred Potocki was appointed Prime Minister.