A loss of agricultural area constitutes a decline of an important form of natural capital, crucial for a sustainable economy, ecology and area development; vice versa, an increase can be considered positive. In addition, this approach accounts for the fact that nature itself is a productive factor, not just the industrial system. The perspective of national welfare assigns many advantages to ecologically cultivated agricultural areas: positive effects for biodiversity, less damages coming from the use of fertilizers and biocides.
As with the replacement costs due to the consumption of non-renewable energy resources (see component 18) a “virtual account” would be necessary from which a compensation for a reduction in cultivation possibilities could be financed.
An increase can be interpreted as a welfare gain for society in the respective year of additional agricultural area. This components represents both factors: agricultural areas as part of productive natural capital and the possibility of compensation for future generations for losses of agricultural areas.
In every year since the beginning of the observed period the agricultural area was shrinking. In the end of the 1990s, annually around 50.000 hectares of former agricultural land were (net) rededicated,only and the absolute changes have slightly slowed down afterwards. An exception is the year 2011 showing the largest decrease of agricultural land (168.000 ha). At the same time prices for one hectare of agricultural land dropped significantly until 2005. The combination of sinking prices and reduced land conversion led to a considerable decline of costs due to the loss of agricultural areas, especially in the 1990s. Since 2005, prices increased considerably; in 2014, they had been nearly twice as high as in 2005. This has been leveled out by a decrease of the loss of agricultural land.