As an agricultural country, Norway is strongly influenced by its geographical location and natural conditions. There are relatively small interconnected areas suitable for agricultural production. Almost three per cent of the land area is agricultural land, 70 per cent is unproductive and 20 per cent is productive forest land.
Conditions for agricultural operations vary considerably between regions, not least the length of the growing season. In many valley, fjord and mountain areas there are steep and difficult terrain. The Gulf Stream makes it possible to farm even in the northernmost regions.
Agricultural land and use
The agricultural area is about 9.9 million acres by 2018, that is around 1.9 acres per inhabitant. The agricultural area is distributed on fully cultivated land (8.1 million acres), surface cultivation meadow (0.2 million acres and field grazing (1.6 million acres)). the area is ecologically driven, and Norway is a distinctly small farming country.
The average use size is 235 acres. The number of agricultural units has declined sharply since the Second World War, and has increased significantly since the late 1990s.
In 2015, there were 41,800 operating units with over five acres of agricultural land, a decline of 28,300 farms since 1999. The greatest decline was for use between 50 and 200 acres, while the number of farms over 500 acres increased slightly. This has happened partly through leasing, and partly through the sale of agricultural land from properties that are still inhabited. There has been little new cultivation.
The number of agricultural holdings in 2014 was about 43,000 and 47,000 full-time equivalents were performed. In 2015, 45,000 full-time equivalents were performed. In comparison, the food industry accounted for 46,000 full-time equivalents, 20 per cent of total industrial employment in Norway. The food industry is our largest mainland industry and the only complete value chain. This means that everything from work, production equipment and raw materials takes place domestically. The total production value in the food sector in 2015 was about NOK 150 billion, about 20 per cent of the total for mainland Norway’s industry.
About 2.7 per cent of the working population is employed in agriculture and forestry. The average age of farmers was 50 years in 2011. The proportion of users under 40 has shown a declining trend and in 2011 was 18 per cent. Determining whether farming is taken over by younger users or discontinued is often the opportunity for employment outside the farm.
Two out of three farmers are part-time farmers, ie they have income outside of agriculture. The usual thing has been to combine agriculture with forestry or fishing. From the 1970s it has become increasingly common to combine farm operations with paid work or other business activities. Part-time farming is also common in the best areas, because unilateral grain production does not provide adequate labor and income for a family.
In 2015, agriculture, excluding forestry, contributed 0.4 per cent of the gross domestic product. About 3 / 4 of the income comes from livestock (milk, meat, eggs, wool), and 1 / 4 of the plant production (grain, vegetables, potatoes, stråfôr). The dominant position of the livestock team is that large parts of the cultivated area can be found in areas where climate and terrain are not suitable for other production.
Most of the agricultural land is therefore used for grass production, mostly hay and surf crops, which can also grow in upland areas and far to the north. It has been a deliberate policy since the 1960s to channel livestock production into areas suitable for such production. Grain cultivation takes place substantially on the flat settlements in eastern Norway, Jæren and in Trøndelag, which are considered to be the best agricultural areas.
Norway’s most common grain variety is barley, but it is also grown a good deal of oats and wheat and some rye and oilseeds. Most of the grain is used for animal feed, something for food grains depending on quality and autumn weather. In climatically favorable years, Norway is almost 80 per cent self-sufficient with baking wheat.
Norwegian farmers have organized themselves through business organizations that will work for farmers ‘economic, social and cultural interests, and through economic organizations with the purpose of buying or selling goods in the farmers’ interest (agricultural cooperation).
The Norwegian Farmers ‘Association has over 60,000 and the Norwegian Farmers’ and Small Farmers ‘ Association has 7,000 members per 2015. The two organizations negotiate jointly with the government on the farmers’ economic development. The result is the agricultural agreement. It is presented to the Storting in a proposition whether or not there is an agreement between the parties. The Storting will allocate the amount needed to fulfill the terms of the proposition and adopt the agricultural settlement for the coming year. At the same time, the government is receiving signals about the further agricultural policy course.