The importance of farming for overall economic development has declined steadily in western Germany. As of 1988, agriculture and forestry (including fishing) accounted for just 1.5% of the gross domestic product. in 1989, farmlands covered a total of 11.791 million hectares 47.5% of the territory of the Federal Republic).

Until 1990, farming in eastern Germany was based on large-scale production by "agricultural production cooperatives." The process of restructuring agricultural enterprises is not yet complete and is leading to a reduction in total farm acreage. In 1989, about 57% of the total land area in eastern Germany consisted of arable land - 76% farmland and 20% grassland, meadows and pastures.