After more than 24 hours of negotiations in overtime, Norway’s largest farmers’ organization finally accepted a sweetened offer from the state that will give them another NOK 350 million in various forms of state support. The package, though, was less than half of what the farmers had demanded.
Many had felt the farmers’ demands for higher pay through increased subsidy and tariff protection were unreasonable this year, at a time when Norway’s economy has slowed and most Norwegians aren’t getting much if any pay raises at all. The farmers had demanded another NOK 860 million worth of support on top of the billions they receive every year.
The state had offered only NOK 90 million but that was raised to the NOK 350 million, with NOK 100 million of it coming straight out of the state budget. The rest will come through price supports and ongoing protection from cheaper imports.
“These were demanding negotiations,” Agriculture Minister Jon Georg Dale of the conservative Progress Party said at a press conference on Sunday. His party has been trying to force more economies of scale in Norwegian agriculture to boost food production, and reduce the farmers’ reliance on the state. Dale managed to severely cut the farmers’ demands, claiming that the farmers’ large organization Norges Bondelag “took responsibility in a difficult time for the Norwegian economy by entering into this agreement with the state.”
That was a subtle jab at the other organization that represents small farmers, Norsk Bonde- og Småbrukarlag, which cut off negotiations but now will likely be forced to take what it’s offered.
“The most important thing for us was to secure diversity in Norwegian agriculture,” said Lars Petter Bartnes, head of Norges Bondelag. “This agreement doesn’t bring us fully to that goal, but the government is going along with efforts to level out the income differences between large and small farmers.”
Dale didn’t entirely agree but claimed the deal will help increase food production in Norway, something the farmers are always promoting themselves. He also said it would boost average income for farmers by 3.1 percent in 2017 without raising prices significantly for consumers.
Around NOK 575 million of the state’s annual contribution to agriculture in Norway will be earmarked for investment and recruiting. The agreement hammered out during the pinse holiday weekend will now be sent to Parliament, where it’s expected to be approved before the summer recess.