Conflicts between Agricultural Policy and Sustainable Land Use: The Case of Northern Spain
The decline of agriculture, observable mainly in industrialized countries, shows itself not only in a gradual decrease in the economic weight of the primary sector, but also in the abandonment of land devoted to agricultural and livestock activities. The phenomenon of agricultural land abandonment is complex and, in order to explain the causes, it is necessary to consider not only the physical and productive features of the land but also the social and economic characteristics of the area. It also appears to be conditioned by production specialization, since traditional livestock-raising areas show a higher risk of abandonment. The process, which is gradual, starts with a reduction in production intensity followed by increasing marginalization and, finally, the total abandonment of land use. Focusing on a representative area on the Cantabrian Coast of northern Spain, this study tests the hypothesis that a large portion of agricultural land in livestock-oriented regions is underused. It also evaluates the viability of forestry as an alternative use for abandoned lands and the potential effects of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform.
Key words: Deagrarianization, Underutilization and abandonment of agricultural land, Cattle density, CAP reform.