German Agriculture Vs American Agriculture – Can One Learn from The Other?

In a concerted effort to save the planet and safeguard it for future generations, countries all over the world are finally committing to targets that will see them become carbon neutral within the next 25years. Germany, for example, has set their carbon neutral target for 2045, with all sectors expected to reach a point of no-emissions within this timeframe. To this end, the German government have turned their attention to the agriculture sector, which up until now has been largely left to its own devices.

Commission for the Future of Agriculture

In 2020, the German government launched the ‘Commission for the Future of Agriculture’ (Zukunftskommission Landwirtschaft, ZKL), the aim of which was to bring farmers and climate activists together to come up with solutions that benefit both parties. The resulting ZKL report was released in July 2021, and it lists key ways in which Germany can move forward with an ‘’ecologically, economically and socially sustainability agriculture and food system’’. Suggestions include; economic incentives for farms that reduce emissions; financial support for those who use specific crop rotation to promote CO2 storage in soils; protection and regeneration of moorland and wet areas; increased EU funding for organic farms.

The intense focus on climate change is long overdue. Up until quite recently, the onus for combating climate change and environmental pollution was placed firmly, and unfairly, on the individual. And it is truly commendable that so many individuals have stepped up and made conscious changes to the way they consume products and manage their waste. Each of us making our own small contribution to making the world a better place is, of course, necessary, but in reality, the spotlight should be on specific industries and the large corporations operating within each industry.

A Cleaning Future for Farming

Agriculture is, arguably, the most important industry on the planet. Without farms and farmers, we cannot survive. Unfortunately, however, commercial farming plays a major role in harming the environment and contributing to climate change. With countries like Germany leading the way, there is clearly hope for a cleaner, more sustainable, and still economically viable agricultural sector. Many farms across America have already begun to implement changes in their own practices that will lead to a reduction in emissions and higher quality produce reaching American tables. But does the American agriculture sector need an official, comprehensive overhaul in policy similar to Germany’s? Climate activists would say, yes it does.

American Vs Germany

American agriculture takes place on a much grander scale than German agriculture, which means that making changes is more challenging. However, American agriculture does rely heavily on science and technology to improve farming methods and productivity. With a mind towards greener industry, the science and technology available to American farmers could go a long way towards supporting green goals.

Main Products

America is home to over 2 million farms. Soybeans, corn, and cattle are the top three biggest farm products, and America exports more agricultural related products than it imports. Roughly 85% of all agricultural products in the US come from family-run farms, and 25 % of farms are run by ‘’beginner farmers’’. In Germany, on the other hand, the main products are dairy, grain (wheat, barley, and rye), and hops. Over 10% of Germany’s farms are certified organic. Farms in Germany tend to much smaller than America, and they are family-run businesses. However, farmers in Germany are struggling to hand down farms to the next generation. Younger generations are moving to the cities to start their digital businesses. Calculation just doesn’t add up. Such is a story of Kai B. from lower Swabia, who left his family pig farm to start a casino website and make money that way. He says he prefers the nice office to the pig farm, while avoiding hard work and the smell of manure.

Wildlife and Biodiversity

It is estimated that over half of the farms in the US are purposely creating areas where wildlife can flourish. The populations of many species, including birds, deer, and moose are increasing steadily each year across the US. Creating habitats for wildlife and preserving biodiversity is one of the goals for German agriculture listed in the ZKL report, so it seems that perhaps the US is ahead of the game in this regard.


When it comes to land usage, it is estimated that the agriculture sector uses 390 million acres of land. However, only approximately 75 million acres is used to grow food that Americans eat. Most of the land is used to provide feed for livestock -mainly cattle. It’s no secret that methane is responsible for the bulk of emissions in the agricultural sector. The ZKL devotes an entire section on ways to reduce the populations dependence on the consumption of meat. Suggestions include: reducing the number of cattle per herd and switching to a pasture-based farming; raising the value of each animal in order to discourage over-consumption while at the same time retaining the economic values for farmers; and introduce a tax on meat, dairy, and eggs.

Farm to Table

One thing that both countries are experiencing is the demand for a farm to table system. Conscientious consumers want to reduce their own carbon footprints by sourcing local products. In response to this, a company called Corteva are developing smart labels which, thanks to Internet of Things technology, can track the entire journey of each product, from field to market.


Germany may have less farms in operation that the US, but it should be noted that over half of Germany’s land area is used for farming, and dairy is one of the biggest exports. Germany is also the third biggest agricultural exporter in the world. The suggestions laid out by the ZKL will have a significant effect on German farmers, so it would be remiss of US dairy farmer to dismiss all suggestions of changed simply based on the fact that their farms are larger. Many would argue, in fact, that it is time that US farms concentrated on diversifying their product lines. After all, it only takes one acre of farmland to grow a wide variety of crops.