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The Black Book of Austrian Agriculture

18 February 2011.

Revelations by an Austrian investigative journalist have shaken the Austrian farming and political establishments.

Farmsubsidy.org is pleased to publish an English langauge account of The Black Book of Austrian Agriculture: the intrigue of agricultural politics, investigative journalist Hans Weiss’s forensic pursuit of “a way through the seemingly impenetrable world of Austrian farm subsidies.”

“Judging by the response, Weiss, whose previous exposés of the chemicals and pharmaceutical industries sold more than five million copies, was on the right path,” write Lutz Mükke and Piet Felber, the authors of the farmsubsidy.org account. “The book made headlines in Austria, found itself on the nightly news, and topped the bestseller chart.”

Or, as Hans Weiss put it: “The farming bureaucracy foamed at the mouth.”

Weiss provides facts and figures about subsidy-related practices and tax tricks; examines the artificially high price of sugar in the EU; and introduces people with first-hand experience of the opaque world of agriculture subsidies.

To illustrate the perversities in the system of subsidies and tax breaks for farming, Weiss identifies prominent “mountain farmers” who also happen to be household names – such as Wolfgang Porsche, of the sports cars, and Dietrich Mateschitz, the inventor of the Red Bull energy drink – and yet who benefit from farm subsidies.

It is, Weiss writes, a system characterized by special rules, exemptions and definitions which intentionally make it less transparent – in order to obscure the “machinery of wasting tax money”. He even goes so far as to describe Austrian farming as a tax shelter comparable with “those in the Caribbean.” The Black Book is “a detailed yet colourful account” that “continues to shed a new light on the secrets of Austrian agriculture,” Mükke and Felber conclude.

Much of Weiss’s research is based on the data on farm subsidies released by the Austrian government as part of the European Transparency Initiative. Transparency in farm subsidies is now in doubt following a ruling by the European Court of Justice that looks set to hamper the future of investigative journalism in agriculture policy.

Download the farmsubsidy.org account of Weiss’s book.