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Story of the month: Family farming moves up the international agenda

Family farming is the foundation upon which agriculture has thrived over the centuries. And it continues to be of crucial importance going forward as 2014 has been designated the International Year of Family Farming by the United Nations.

Supporting this global initiative, the European Commission organised a high-level international conference on family farming that was held in Brussels on 29 November 2013.

The event highlighted the role of family farms in alleviating hunger and poverty, providing food security and improving livelihoods while protecting the environment and biodiversity. It also noted the diversity inherent to the family farming model and its value as a sustainable rural model, an efficient producer of food and a source of cultural values and agrarian know-how.

Over 450 participants from national and international platforms, governments, rural organisations, development associations, and experts came together to debate about best practice in family farming and how growth can best be supported. The importance of innovation was highlighted and discussion focused on how best to facilitate access to new technology and research. Organisational aspects were also stressed, especially the opportunities to work together to strengthen family farms.

The importance of family farming within the European Union cannot be overstated. The vast majority of the EU’s 12 million farms are family-run businesses, passed down from one generation to the next. In terms of rural development, the CAP Reform offers many relevant opportunities to family-run farm businesses, such as support for agricultural advisory services and measures promoting farm diversification, restructuring, modernisation, training and knowledge transfer.

For a comprehensive overview of the family farming model from a European agricultural and rural development policy context, as well as the related international aspects, check out the EU Rural Review – Issue #17, which was launched at European Commission conference. The publication focuses on the family farming model’s contribution to smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.