|Sweden Early Organic Agricultural Development|
The early development of organic farming
Before the 1980s, organic agriculture in Sweden consisted of a number of organizations working in isolation, each with its own concept and philosophy, working with similar activities, trying to cover most areas. At an early stage marketing was an important issue, and the Saltå Mill and Biodynamical Products helped biodynamic producers, later also organic, sell their products. The Biodynamic Association is the oldest, with its centre in Järna; the Organic Biological Association and the Association of Natural Growers were the most important organizations and Saltå Mill and Biodynamical Products were early market actors. Cooperation under a common concept became necessary in the early 1980s for the sprouting political lobbying and the growing market interest. Alternative Agriculture was adopted as a common name, and the Cooperation Group for Alternative Agriculture (SAO) was formed by the most active groups of farmers and environmentalists. The SAO elaborated an agricultural policy, and partly pushed by the Consumers’ Cooperative, KF, the biggest food chain, also started work on a common goal and standards, based on the IFOAM guidelines.
An increasing market demand and a rising interest among conventional farmers led to an urgent need to unite farmers, and in February 1985 the National Association of Alternative Farmers, ARF, was founded. The first task for ARF was to create a certification system, and two weeks later KRAV was born. KRAV was constructed to unite the different organic philosophies and practices under a common system of standards and certification, with a high degree of transparency and open to participation for all actors interested in the development of trustworthy certification of organic production. It was an important step to involve both market actors and the conventional farmers this way at an early stage of development.
Another strategy of ARF was to encourage and organize the market development and distribution of organic certified products. In 1985 the national umbrella organization for regional farmers’ cooperative vegetable producers, Samodlarna Sweden, was founded. Similar cooperatives were established in the following years for organic grain, milk, meat and eggs. These farmers’ cooperatives all worked with the aim of making organic products available in the mainstream food market.
The efforts to gain government interest and political support were an important part of the ARF agenda, and after several years of lobbying, in 1989 the Minister of Agriculture launched the first payment scheme to farmers. A chair for organic farming was established at the University of Agriculture in Uppsala and three national organic advisors also were installed. The political acceptance shown by this decision had a tremendous effect on further strategies and development, with ARF as the main voice of the movement. In 1993, ARF took a decision to lobby for a national target for organic: ‘10% organic in the year 2000’. In 1994 it was adopted unanimously by the Swedish Parliament. ‘Action Plan 2000’ was elaborated by the National Board of Agriculture with the involvement of the organic sector. The government adoption of the plan coincided with Swedish membership in the EU, through which Sweden got access to the development programs for organic farming, which made serious implementation possible. The successful development after the 10% target led to new national targets in 2000 and 2006.
In the early 1990s, the organic movement, including KRAV and ARF, changed the name from ‘alternative’ to ‘ecological’ to get rid of the niche image and to indicate that organic develops on its own merits as a model for all agriculture. ARF thus became the Ecological Farmers Association.
(Author: Inger Källander)
Further Reading on Sweden's Organic Sector Development:
(Adapted From IFOAM, Building Sustainable Organic Sectors)
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