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Agriculture The privileges of being a farmer in Switzerland

A trailer full of potatoes with a farm vehicle in the background

The potato harvest is less taxing on farmers, thanks to cheaper fuel for farm vehicles. 

(Keystone/Gaetan Bally)

No other profession in Switzerland has such a strong political lobby. And it pays off. The agricultural sector is protected through import restrictions and state subsidies, and farmers receive a number of other privileges too.  

Low-cost fuel

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One litre of petrol or diesel costs a farmer about 60 centimes less than other road users. Farmers can submit a request for a refund of the mineral oil tax surcharge and mineral oil tax. Depending on the size of the business, they also benefit from a certain amount of discounted fuel. (According to the Federal Customs Administration, a total of CHF65 million was refunded to farmers in 2015.)

Family allowances

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Normally, people receive family allowances as part of their salaries. In the case of farmers, the money comes from the federal and cantonal governments. Not only the farmer, but also family members who work on the farm are entitled to family allowances regardless of their income level. In 2015, this privilege cost taxpayers CHF 97 million, according to the Federal Social Insurance Office. Farmers only pay contributions for their employees who are not family members.

Retraining

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If a farm is abandoned, the federal authorities cover half of the retraining costs of a farmer or spouse to find work in another field. 

Tax benefits

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Farmers benefit from a lower tax rate which is based on the estimated rental value of their property. A farming family’s expenditure on housing is only about half as high as that of comparable households.

No value added tax must be paid for direct sales of meat, potatoes, bread, eggs etc. from the farm.

Transport

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Farm vehicles designated as such by their licence plates are exempt from Switzerland’s heavy goods vehicle tax.

In addition, they are generally exempted from the Sunday and night ban on driving heavy vehicles. 

Air pollution control

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To reduce air pollution, construction machinery must be fitted with particulate filters. However agricultural and forestry equipment are exempt. 

Investment funding

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Interest-free loans are given for farming infrastructure (like housing, stables, farm shops). In 2015, a total of CHF300 million was awarded.

Farmers also receive grants when money is needed for land improvements, agricultural buildings or work deemed valuable for the whole community.

If a farming operation finds itself in financial trouble through no fault of its own, it is also eligible for interest-free loans.

Exceptions

The Swiss Farmers' Association denies that the agriculture sector is given preferential treatment in comparison with other branches. It refers to a 2006 study by an agricultural collegeexternal link that concludes "...the regulations hardly differ in the main areas. There are various special exceptions which are limited to agricultural activities," the association quoted.

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