Agriculture and the environment in the Nordic countries

Policies for sustainability and green growth

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In the future, demand for agricultural products will increase. The agricultural sector must meet the increase in demand without compromising the natural resources of which it depends on and damage fragile ecosystems. Sustainable agricultural practices and green growth is necessary for this to happen and agricultural policy must facilitate such development. How agriculture contributes to water pollution has been in focus in the Nordic countries for many years. In many places, nutrient emissions have been successfully reduces, but targets are still not met. The implementation of the Water Framework Directive makes policies that facilitate reduction of nutrient runoff even more relevant than before. This report looks at experiences from the Nordic countries and makes suggestions for future policies for sustainable agriculture and green growth. The report has been commissioned by the Nordic Council of Ministers. The study was carried out by the Norwegian Agricultural Economics Research Institute (NILF).




Agriculture delivers a combined set of private and public outputs like food products, landscape values, biodiversity and pollution. This is so because agricultural production is directly interlinked with the ecosystems it operates within and the space it utilizes. Inputs like land, water, air, fertilizers, pesticides, energy, etc., are combined in different processes. Out of this process come tradable private goods like grain and public goods and bads like landscape values, food security, pollution etc. A sustainable agriculture requires production processes that optimize on and balance environmental, social and economic outputs.


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