Doubts rise over livestock losses
October 25, 2010
Norwegian farmers are eligible for government compensation when they report losses of livestock from predators, but the amounts have grown so high that questions are once again being raised. There seems to be little control over the payouts, because authorities fear farmer’s anger.
Next year’s state budget has earmarked NOK 136 million (USD 22 million) to compensate farmers for animals lost to predators like wolves, bears, wolverines, lynx and eagles. In a letter to the state Auditor General’s office, the Ministry of the Environment tried to explain the lack of controls, saying that delays arising from carrying out checks would cause conflicts with sheep ranchers, writes newspaper Aftenposten.
At the same time, the government is working hard to reach consensus within its own ranks on regulations governing predators. Coalition partners, the conservation-oriented Socialist Left Party and the farmer-friendly Center Party, seem to have irreconcilable differences as they try to strike a compromise between wildlife and farming interests.
As long ago as 2001, the Auditor General pointed out that there is virtually no control over how many of the compensated animals are actually killed by predators. The Ministry of the Environment promised to do better, but since then nothing has happened to make fraud less likely.
The conservative Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet, Frp) strongly criticizes the government for its passive attitude. The Conservatives (H) understand that farmers want swift reimbursement, but also want payouts to be monitored.
Figures for last year show that claims were made to compensate the loss of 56,000 sheep, equivalent to the annual lamb and mutton consumption of 200,000 Norwegians.
The farming industry in Norway is heavily regulated, which has led the Auditor General to suggest that losses can be checked against figures for subsidies and slaughter tied to individual farms. The Ministry of the Environment disagrees.
The main farmer’s union fails to see how loss figures could be manipulated, but has no reservations against controls, as long as they take place afterwards so as not to delay compensation payouts.