Creature Comforts

18 Mar 2008

While many developed nations offer high agricultural subsidies, the case of Norwegian support for dairy farming must be one of the most exorbitant examples. The average subsidy received by farmers is around $16 per day for each cow – in a world where around one billion people live on less than a dollar a day.

Norway’s government wants farmers in the Arctic county of Finnmark to produce their own milk, but it is much too cold for much of the year to keep the herds in pasture. Thus, the animals live in heated barns and food must be brought in from other regions.

This approach clearly raises the economic and environmental impacts of raising cows, compared to pasture-grazed herds. However, the government argues that maintaining milk production is important to support communities in remote Arctic regions. The alternative of closing down diary farms and trucking in milk would be worse in their opinion.

According to a study by the Norwegian Agricultural Economics Research Institute, the average subsidies for a dairy farmer in the high north totaled 503,586 Norwegian crowns ($98,720) in 2006. Each farmer looks after an average herd of just 17 cows, bringing the figure to around $16 per cow per day.

Bess Mucke


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