Three percent of Denmark’s arable land once stood as lakes or wetlands before they were drained in order to cultivate crops again.
While this may seem like a low percentage, it is actually harmful to the environment.
The soil emits large amounts of CO2, accounting for almost 10 percent of agriculture’s total emissions.
To tackle this issue, the Danish Agriculture & Food Council in co-operation with the Danish Society for Nature Conservation back in February suggested that the state should buy such land and convert it back. The farmers should either receive money or new land in return.
A relief for some farmers
Lise Murmann Pedersen, one of the farmers whose land was orginally below water, told DR it would be a relief.
“We can’t use our machines. The soil is so wet that the machines simply sink into the ground. We can’t derive any profit from the land. There’s revenue, but no profit,” she told DR.
The proposal suggests that farmers should themselves decide whether to sell or exchange land.
Professor suggests expropriation as a possibility
Jørgen E Olesen, a professor at the Department of Agroecology at Aarhus University, however, fears that the price of the land can increase dramatically if individual landowners oppose the proposal.
“Given that this shouldn’t be very expensive for taxpayers, I think one should consider the possibility of expropriation,” he told DR.
Expropriation would enable the state to force the landowners into disposing of their land for compensation.
The new government’s political agreement briefly states: “The new government will also take the initiative regarding land reform, including the taking of agricultural land for nature [purposes].”
Is it necessary though?
Pia Olesen Dyhr, the chair of Socialistisk Folkeparti, however, believes that expropriation should be the last resort.
The Danish Agricultural & Food Council does not believe in expropriation either, advising that any change in land ownership should be voluntary.
“I am annoyed that so early in the process it is said that it may be necessary to force the farmers. They are actually willing to get started and are very concerned about this issue. They are just waiting for action from the politicians,” Anne Lawaetz Arhnung, the CEO of the Danish Agricultural & Food Council, told DR.
Farmers should not be forced to sell their lands
Lise Murmann Pedersen is ready to sell off her land but on the condition that it is done voluntarily.
“I am ready if it’s voluntary. I won’t do it if I am forced to do so. I know this land better than others do,” she told DR.
She further explains that some farmers depend on their land and should not be forced to sell it, and that instead the state should offer the right price and convince them that it can be made into a business.