In the government's proposal for the state budget for 2023, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food receives a historic budget increase of 24.7 percent. This is a sign that the government has great ambitions for Norwegian agriculture.
In addition, NOK 87 million is allocated to the establishment of Bionova, a center under Innovation Norway that will work with climate measures in agriculture and the development of the circular bioeconomy. The ambition of the center is to promote sustainable food production in Norway.
Norway already has a number of actors working to develop new forms of sustainable food production and self-sufficiency, including several vertical farming companies.
These actors and their initiatives are not mentioned in the government's agricultural plans or budgets, and receive limited access to the support schemes the government has granted Norwegian agriculture.
Although vertical cultivation is one of the fastest growing industries globally, with a considerable investment in comparable countries such as Norway, the Norwegian policy lags behind in only promoting the existing agriculture.
An example is how production subsidies are only given based on cultivated land area, not cultivation area. The Center Party itself has said that the investment capacity in Norwegian agriculture is too low, and the lack of subsidies makes it difficult for existing farmers to start with vertical cultivation when they do not receive subsidies for such production.
Other examples are that construction case processing in the municipalities has come to a halt due to uncertainty about whether facilities for vertical cultivation should be processed as agriculture or business, and that vertical operators have faced challenges in obtaining electricity support as a result of narrow definitions of greenhouses in the electricity support regulations.
Such regulatory and political challenges should be unnecessary. In order to ensure both Norwegian food safety and Norway's obligations according to the UN's climate goals, the government must be more aggressive and inclusive towards new, innovative and potentially more sustainable food producers.
So the question becomes: If the government is serious when they say they want to develop an innovative and sustainable food sector in Norway, why don't they make it easier for new players to gain entry into the sector?