Farming in case of crisis : farmers’ political trust and the social contract for food security in Sweden
Sammanfattning: This thesis addresses the role of agriculture and Swedish national food security in the event of a crisis in the food chain. The focus is on farmers' political trust and the relationship between farmers and government, mainly regarding crisis management. The main empirical data consists of 20 interviews with farmers in the county of Västra Götaland. Food security is one of five focus areas in the recently restarted Civil defense planning, which since 2015 is taking place among central authorities in Sweden. The foodstuff preparedness as part of the Civil defense planning is about the access of food for every citizen during a major crisis or war. Food security has been a central part of the welfare state building with a direct state-responsibility. With a perceived reduced threat against Sweden after the Cold War and since Sweden joined the EU and the Common Agricultural Policy, the governmental control of the food supply both in peacetime and as a part of national defense has ended. However, the conditions for farmers in Sweden today are to a high degree controlled and regulated by European and national politics and law. Therefore the trust between farmers and the state becomes central to understand agriculture’s role in food security management. The objective of this thesis is to explore the farmers' perspective on their and the state’s role and responsibility for food security in case of crisis. The understanding of the relationship of trust between the farmers and the central authorities, namely the political trust, is central in this thesis and is analysed with the central concepts of reciprocity and as part of a changing social contract. The farmers were interviewed about their attitudes and abilities to maintain food production both in a short and a long term crisis perspective. Farmers are expressing and relating to two common ideals when it comes to what agriculture is and its role in society: the businessman farmer ideal and the lifestyle farmer ideal. Drawing from this, the trust farmers express for the society in general, and specifically for state institutions for agriculture and food security, is analysed. Experiences of agriculture as not appreciated by the rest of society for its role in food production, rather as recreation or landscape management, or only in negative terms, leads to a low feeling of responsibility for society’s food supply among the farmers. Political trust is discussed in terms of the importance of a functioning legal system and that the authorities are perceived to be acting with integrity and based on shared values. Farmers show a weakened trust in the central authorities important for agriculture, particularly linked to negative experiences of public law and controls. The authorities are perceived not to share farmers’ values. At the same time however, the overall political trust is high among Swedish citizens, including the farmers. In terms of preparedness, the farmers trust that the state somehow will solve a crisis when needed. These two tendencies of political trust both contributes to a “wait and see” approach to crisis prevention, and can be seen as a major challenge for efficient emergency cooperation.
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