P-06/04 The legitimacy of a multifunctional agriculture.
Paper presented at the XI World Congress of Rural Sociology, Trondheim, Norway, July 25 - 30. What is the legitimacy of an agricultural policy directed towards collective goods production? This Norwegian study based on qualitative interview material with representatives of the agricultural sector, supplemented with two quantitative surveys, explores the acceptance of and adaptations towards a more multifunctional role for agriculture both within and outside the agricultural sector. Although Norwegian agricultural policies for a long time have had a number of various objectives, including regional and environmental aims, the greatest legitimacy within the agricultural sector is still the "traditional farmer role", seeing the farmer mainly as a food producer, and collective goods as by-products, in which maintained cultural landscapes, settlement and rural viability are seen as the most important ones. The interviews show that the cultural landscape is seen as the most important common good, and is the one most frequently mentioned by all informants. Agriculture’s role as a cultural carrier was also stressed, as well as its importance for contributing to social goods through voluntary communal work – dugnad – a role that now is weakened due to harder economic and time pressure. Areas with tourism have somewhat more focus on the cultural landscape, more awareness of the issue and also more positive attitudes towards agriculture’s multifunctionality, mainly identified as cultural landscape. Northern Norway and parts of coastal Norway do not see themselves as a "part of the cultural landscape". The qualitative study shows that those focussing the least on the landscape as a common good, are mainly concerned about agricultural policy measures for rural settlement, farm transfer and new entrants. Within the agricultural bureaucracy and farmers' organisations maintained settlement in rural areas is considered agriculture's most important contribution to collective goods. There are, however, great regional and local differences, and most of all differences between the various levels within organisations in terms of knowledge, interest and perceptions. Further, the farmer role and work ethics are complex and many-dimensional. "The general public" express great support for multifunctional agriculture; however, what they do as consumers may prove to be more important. Trade leakage suggests a strong preference for inexpensive food; however, also in Norway a certain demand for local, quality and niche products is developing, creating new rural development possibilities for some actors. The ongoing marginalisation of farming in many areas may lead to increased diversification and new rural futures; however, abandonment of farming and recolonisation of vegetation may make large areas lose landscape and biodiversity values, becoming less attractive, less accessible and less multifunctional.