UA land, or uncultivated agricultural land, is a polite term for farmland that it has not been worked for some time. It might be deliberate, for instance, in the days of the set-aside policy, EU countries could hold back up to 10% of their farmland from production and still receive subsidies. UA land might be fallow land, resting in order that the soil regains nutrients. However, there are other reasons why farmland might not being worked, and these have less to do with soil fertility or agricultural policy. Farmland might not be worked because the owners do not believe it makes any economic sense to work the land. In many parts of Europe, UA land might be a sign of the changing population structure in the rural areas, both in terms of the numbers of people permanently resident as well as their age profile.
The aim of this research is to investigate the different causes of UA land and to examine the consequences. The premise is that there is nothing intrinsically negative about farmland being taken out of active production, in some cases, it will be because there is a wish for more recreational areas, for nature reserves or even land for new housing. Where UA land might be an issue is when it is less by choice.
In areas where incomes from farming are low, where young people are moving away and where it might be difficult to sell or lease small parcels of land, the likelihood increases that farmland will not only be UA land, but it will be effectively abandoned. In these cases, the increase in the proportion of local abandoned land will accelerate the process of shrinking rural settlements which once it reaches a certain point, becomes very difficult to reverse.
The actual extent of UA land in Europe is unknown. The Agricultural Year published by the EU’s DG Agri, only publishes land use statistics connected to the Utilized Agricultural Area. However, in recent years there has been increased interest in the topic of UA land and efforts have been made to document the extent, location and patterns of UA land in Europe.
Presentation: Land Abandonment and Shrinking Settlements (Download)