Rationalizing the Land – Interaction and Conflict between State and Public during the Structural Transformation of Swedish Agriculture 1945-1989

Anna R. Locke, University of Gothenburg

After the Second World War, the by far largest structural transformation of Swedish agriculture took place. Between 1945 and 1999 the number of farms in Sweden decreased by 73 %. In that way the country followed a pattern recognized from most western countries of the time, and the end result was fewer, but larger farms, operated solely by the farm family. In Sweden, this change was a dual process. It was initiated both by the farmers and by the state. In 1947 a major policy program for agriculture rationalization was accepted by a broad political majority. The aim of the program was to make farming more efficient. In order to achieve this, regional state agencies called ‘county agricultural boards’ were installed and put in to action. Their main task were to execute the policy program by educating established farmers, admitting loans for farm development and by approving land acquisitions. No farmland were to be sold outside the immediate family without the board’s permission. The implementation of land acquisition laws led to conflict between the state and the public who strove to buy and sell farmland. Seemingly there were diverging interests and opinions concerning what a rational change of the agricultural sector actually was. In this paper, based on my PhD-dissertation, these conflicts are studied through appealed applications for land acquisition. In 1950 approximately 13 % of the applications were appealed, but in 1988 as many as 54 % were questioned by the applicants. By analyzing the argumentation in the appeals, as well as policy documents, I discuss why the appeals grew in numbers and how the interaction between state and public affected the restructuring of the rural future.

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 Presented in Session 264. Rationalizing Land Use II (20th Century)