The battle for arable land is getting tougher – NRK Vestfold and Telemark – Local news, TV and radio

The battle for arable land is getting tougher – NRK Vestfold and Telemark – Local news, TV and radio

Farmer Knut Ingar Nalum in Sandefjord grows grain, vegetables and berries. He has a farm shop in the yard.

– Straight-in-your-mouth food, he calls it. Broccoli, cauliflower, dill and cabbage stand in long rows. Two employees go and close the doors.

Nalum has long been hunting for more land on which he can grow food.

He owns 75 acres, rents 205 acres and wants at least 100 acres more.

Kale is ready for harvesting.

Photo: Mette Stensholt Schau / NRK

Attractive soil

One hectare of good topsoil in Vestfold costs NOK 15,000 to 20,000 when a farmer buys it. The price is determined by the agricultural office in the municipalities.

If the land is regulated for food, there are completely different prices.

The price can be 20 times higher.

– I can’t pay it, says farmer Knut Ingar Nalum. Then it doesn’t pay to cultivate.

Not sure about the next generation

We have 10 million hectares of cultivated land in Norway. 60 percent is only suitable for grass.

Since World War II, we have lost 1.2 million acres of arable land.

But it has been tightened.

Last year, 3,104 acres of cultivated land disappeared, according to figures from Statistics Norway. It is the lowest since 2009.

Farmer Knut Ingar Nalum stands outside in the vegetable field.

Farmer Knut Ingar Nalum would like to grow more food. But then he needs more land to cultivate.

Photo: Mette Stensholt Schau / NRK

The farmer in Sandefjord has called around in an attempt to rent or buy land.

The answer is no everywhere. He believes price is the reason. There is more to be gained by selling to developers.

He is the fourth generation on the farm. If he doesn’t get more land, and thus more income, then it may be difficult for the next generation to make a living from food production, he believes.

Zero vision is not possible

The government is now creating a new strategy for soil conservation.

It will become more difficult for municipalities to say yes to plans for housing and commercial buildings on arable land.

Statistics for what topsoil is reallocated to.  Pie chart.

What was cultivated land is reallocated to other purposes.

Photo: Source: Municipal management of agricultural areas / SBB

But something will always be lost, says Agriculture Minister Sandra Borch.

Agriculture and Food Minister Sandra Borch on a visit to Bjerkreim in Rogaland.

Agriculture Minister Sandra Borch will not limit the municipalities’ right to reallocate cultivated land to other purposes.

Photo: Øystein Otterdal / NRK

– A zero vision will be difficult due to transport measures such as railway development, footpaths and cycleways and so on where some cultivated land has to be taken from time to time.

The counties around the Oslofjord have the greatest pressure on land. In 2021 alone, almost 24,000 moved here.

At the same time, this is where you have the best climate and soil for growing grains and vegetables.

Approximately 25 percent of all vegetables in the country are grown in Vestfold.

The population in Vestfold increased by 1 percent in 2021. Sandefjord increased even slightly more.

Easier to talk about now

Hans Huseby has been a farmer, but let his daughter in a few years ago. He himself moved up onto a knoll overlooking the fields. Everything to preserve the earth.

Hans Huseby, leader of the Jordvernforeningen in Vestfold out in the forest.

Head of Jordvern Vestfold, Hans Huseby.

Photo: Mette Stensholt Schau / NRK

As a board member of Jordvern Norge, he fights to save as much cultivated land as possible.

– We notice an increased interest, he says, and feels that it is easier to get attention about soil conservation now than just five years ago.

– That we have areas where we can grow food today and in the future is very important, he emphasizes.

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