Latest indicators confirm the ongoing structural trends in rural areas across the EU.
The annual report on Rural Development indicators published by the European Commission today shows that the number of farms declined by 12% between 2007 and 2010.
The average farm size increased to 14.3 ha (against 12.7 ha in 2007) and close to 70% of all farms in the EU still have less than 5 ha of agricultural land, while full-time jobs in agriculture decreased by 16.5% over the same period.
There has also been an increase in the area under organic farming (+6.9%/year between 2006 and 2011), or in the area under protective/protected forest.
The report figures also show a continued improvement in greenhouse gas emissions (though at a slower pace over the last five years) and a decline in nitrogen and phosphorus surpluses and in the concentration of nitrates in surface water.
The report compiles further statistical information on the socio-economic, agricultural and environmental situation of rural areas, while a specific chapter focuses on the implementation of rural development programmes.
Home to 113 million people in the EU, rural areas provide food, raw materials, jobs and numerous environmental goods and services, contributing to the conservation and sustainable use of cultural landscapes, biodiversity, water and soils as well as carbon storage.
The sustainable development of rural areas has been a key objective of the Common Agricultural Policy since the full establishment of Rural Development programmes as the so-called second pillar in 2000.