Farmers want 20 percent pay hike

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The powerful organizations representing Norwegian farmers (bondelagene) have delivered a written demand for NOK 2.2 billion (around USD 386 million) worth of subsidies and other forms of economic support. State officials claimed the demand amounts to a pay hike of 20 percent.

Norway's small farms and rural landscapes are attractive but expensive to maintain, with taxpayers and consumers paying high prices to support local agriculture. PHOTO: Views and News

Leif Forsell of the state agricultural ministry, who’ll be leading the annual spring subsidy negotiations with the farmers, only half-jokingly suggested the farmers have been taking too much of the cod liver oil known as tran in Norway. A recent report from statistics bureau SSB showed that farmers’ average income already rose 8 percent in 2010.

“It can be worth mentioning that economic circumstances call for moderation to preserve competitiveness, also for farmers and their products,” Forsell said upon receipt of the farm lobby’s demands. “The government is maintaining tight budget policies and in that perspective, it’s rather excessive to demand an annual pay hike of NOK 50,000.”

Norway has a long political tradition of heavily subsidizing agriculture to maintain economic activity in rural areas and to ensure local food production. The subsidies along with strict market regulations and high import tariffs that can keep foreign goods out of the market have come under increasing pressure lately, not least after serious miscalculations by state dairy cooperative Tine led to a severe shortage of butter last autumn and well into the winter. Tine was forced to allow foreign butter into the market and apologize for what many viewed as market arrogance. Its chief spokesman recently resigned.

Meanwhile, thousands of Norwegians continue to drive over the border to load up on groceries in neighbouring Sweden, and border trade recently set another record. Even though Sweden is also expensive by European standards, prices there can be as much as 40 percent lower than in Norway.

State officials have said they want more competition and better choices for Norwegian consumers. The farmers, though, aren’t budging in their demand that Norwegian taxpayers continue to support their efforts to keep agriculture viable in a country known for small farms, high costs and a demanding climate.

Nils T Bjørke of Norges Bondelag, who will lead the farmers’ negotiations, said their demand is a response to the “challenges and obligations” that he has derived from a recent state report on goals for agriculture and food production in Norway.

The state will respond with is annual offer to the farmers around May 7. Negotiations are scheduled to continue until May 16.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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  • DK1984

    This is absolutely insane! 2.2 BILLION kroner to support an industry that is not necessary in Norway. I am all for farmers being able to continue to farm, and we all need to make a living somehow, but this is getting ridiculous! Farmers are one of, if not the main cause for food prices in our stores to be some of the highest in not only Europe, but the world, and they keep demanding more and more money every single year. I would have loved to get an 8% pay increase in 2010, and even moreso to get a 20% pay increase this year, but the fact of the matter is that will never happen in the industry I work in – which happens to be a NECESSARY industry for the whole population in Norway.

    I appreciate the novelty of having small farms producing goods locally, but at the end of the day it is cheaper to cut our losses in favor of more reasonably priced produce that helps the population as a whole – not just the farmers. I know that it’s gotten more and more expensive for farmers to make a good living from the work they do, but maybe its time to sell the farm and get another job – one that pays and doesn’t suck the money out of every single person that goes to the store to buy some healthy food for their family’s nourishment.

    Norway is not a country that is condusive to large scale farming – farming that makes a profit instead of a loss. Let’s start thinking a bit more economically minded and socialistically oriented. If a system that is currently in place can be removed for the betterment of the community as a whole, why should the majority pay to support the minority? We don’t need farms in Norway, we can import all we need from elsewhere, thus eliminating an enormous cost for the consumer and taxpayer.

    The quality of their produce isn’t even that good.

  • Really maddening. It’s hard for me to understand why Norwegians have long accepted this sort of bullying. Who’s the customer here?