The Swedish Agricultural Policy Reform of 1990: – A Window of Opportunity for Structural Change in Policy Preferences

Swedish agricultural policy reform of 1990 constitutes a rare example of a very radical reform of agricultural policy. All internal market regulations were abolished. Farmers were offered only a modest and temporary compensation. Contrary to the reforms of the CAP, the reform was not caused by external pressures or a budgetary crisis. The paper aims at identifying driving forces behind the reform. The analysis is based on an eclectic approach focussing on legitimacy of the agricultural policy and on coalition formation in the parliament. Swedish politics in the post war period has been dominated by Social Democrats who do not rely on farm votes. However, Social Democrats were occasionally dependent on a support from a centrist agrarian party, which benefited farmers. Weakening of the strategic position of the agrarians due to changing co-operation pattern in late 80s constituted a window of opportunity for a reform of agricultural policy. Declining legitimacy was however, a major explanation why it was possible to reform the policy. Open and public debate on agricultural policy contributed considerably to the decline of the legitimacy. Even the Federation of Swedish Farmers accepted that agricultural policy had to be reformed. The clever organisation of the work on the reform and of the management of the process of arriving at the draft proposal have also contributed to the success. The reform was initiated by the Ministry of finance and managed by “outsiders” confirming that sectoral ministries will generally not be willing or able to run liberal trade policies. After joining the EU, Sweden became one of the most ardent critics of the CAP. This indicates that the reform of 1990 was not merely a result of favourable circumstances but that a long-term structural change in the societal preferences has taken place.


Issue Date:
2004
Publication Type:
Conference Paper/ Presentation
PURL Identifier:
http://purl.umn.edu/15760
Total Pages:
14

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