Rural Development in Austria

Landscape Inn valley
Photo: BML / Alexander Haiden

Rural Development (RD) constitutes a core element of agricultural policy in Austria and in Europe as a whole. However, it’s importance goes far beyond agriculture - it extends to many other fields related to rural areas.

“Rural Development” being a supporting instrument for agriculture and rural areas is implemented via the so-called Rural Development Programmes. They aim at shaping the rural area as living environment and economic and recreational area in an ecologically, economically and socially active way. Therefore, six priorities of EU policy have been defined at European level, which are pursued and implemented by the Member States accordingly within the framework of their national development programmes.

To this purpose, Austria has worked out a comprehensive set of support options in the form of numerous different subsidisation measures.

  • Austria’s priorities focus on resource, environmental and climate protection issues, which are first and foremost addressed in the Agri-environmental Programme ÖPUL, Austria’s programme for an agriculture, which is appropriate to the environment, extensive and protective of natural habitats. Central goals are to ensure the management of less-favoured areas, as well as to preserve and further develop the Austrian cultivated landscape - this applies not only, but essentially to the Alpine area.
  • For agriculture investments in holdings, in processing and marketing as well as in opportunities for training and further training of farmers constitute important measures of rural development.
  • Moreover, also non-agricultural areas are continuously being extended. This is demonstrated by current options of subsidisation for example in connection with the further development of broadband coverage or of the development of offers in the field of tourism.
  • With the LEADER priority the programme includes in addition to that an important regional development instrument with participatory character. The people in the LEADER regions can decide independently which projects shall be supported.

All in all innovation and cooperation play an important role in the programme.

In the period 2014 to 2020 around 7.7 billion euros of EU, federal and provincial funds are available within the framework of the Rural Development Programme in Austria. About half of it originates from the EU budget, in concrete terms from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD).

The projects submitted within the framework of the programme measures for example by individuals, associations or municipalities, are subjected to a selection procedure on a fixed date, and, in case of compliance with certain criteria, selected for subsidisation.

The programme implementation takes place with the involvement of the federal and provincial levels, as well as of the paying agency AMA. Due to the delayed start of the subsequent subsidisation period the programme period of the current Rural Development Programme is extended by two years until 2022. During this period additional funds are available for rural development.