About 56% of the land in 1998 was cultivated, most of it for feed and root crops. In 2002, agriculture engaged 4% of the labor force. Although agriculture is of great significance to the Danish economy, its relative importance declined from 19% of the GDP in 1961 to 2.7% in 2001.
The majority of farms are small and medium-sized; about 80% are smaller than 50 hectares (124 acres). In 1995, there were 66,150 Danish farms. Thousands of smallholdings have been established since 1899 under special legislation empowering the state to provide the land by partitioning public lands, by expropriation, and by breaking up large private estates. In the more newly established holdings, the farmer owns only the buildings (for which the state advances loans), the land being owned by the state and the smallholder paying an annual rent fixed under the land-tax assessment. Comparatively few new holdings have been established since 1951.
Grain growing and root-crop production are the traditional agricultural pursuits, but considerable progress has been made in recent decades in apple growing and the production of field, forage, flower, and industrial seeds. Although the soil is not particularly fertile and holdings are kept deliberately small, intensive mechanization and widespread use of fertilizers and concentrated feeds result in high yields and excellent quality. In 1998 there were 140,000 tractors and 25,000 harvester-threshers.
The crop yields of major crops for 1999 were (in estimated tons per hectares/acres harvested): barley, 715,000 per 1,767,000 ha/3,619,000 ac; wheat, 631,000 per 1,559,000 ha/4,444,000 ac; rye, 51,000 per 126,000 ha/237,000 ac; sugar from beets, 63,000 per156,000 ha/3,567,000 ac; rapeseed (canola), 142,000 per 351,000 ha/383,000 ac; and carrots, 2,000 per 5,000 ha/77,000 ac.
Agricultural exports supplied 17.8% of the value of Danish exports in 2001. Farm products provide materials for industrial processing, and a significant share of industry supplies the needs of domestic agriculture.
The Danish government devotes particular effort to maintaining the volume, price, quality, and diversity of agricultural products, but internal regulation is largely left to private initiative or exercised through private organizations, notably the cooperatives.