No, Sweden is not taking 21% of farmland out of production because of the EU Nature Restoration law

By: Siri Christiansen
March 15 2024

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No, Sweden is not taking 21% of farmland out of production because of the EU Nature Restoration law

Screenshots of a TikTok video claiming 21 percent of Sweden's farmland may be taken out of production. (Source: TikTok/Screenshots/Modified by Logically Facts)


The Verdict Misleading

The claim arises from the first proposal of the law, not the current one being passed.

Claim ID b6bf9fcb

What's this about?

The European Union's Nature Restoration law, which sets out to restore at least 20 percent of the union's land and sea areas by 2030, was passed in the European Parliament on 27 February.

Under the law, member states must restore at least 30 percent of degraded habitats covered by the law (such as forests, rivers, and wetlands) by 2030 and at least 90 percent by 2050. This will be done through national restoration plans, where each member state will outline how to achieve the law's targets. 

What's been claimed?

A "Swexit" candidate for Sweden's EU Parliament election, Klaus Bernpaintner, argues in a viral TikTok that the EU Nature Restoration law is an infringement on property rights and poses a threat to Swedish farmers.

Bernpaintner is listed as the tenth candidate on the ballot for the far-right Alternative for Sweden party but is running as an independent candidate with the single aim of creating a movement to get Sweden to exit the EU ("Swexit"). 

In a video with over 116,000 views posted on TikTok (archived here) on 29 February, Bernpaintner says, among other things, that Naturvårdsverket (the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency) "estimates that 21 percent of all Swedish agricultural land is affected by the law and may need to be taken out of production." 

What are the facts?

Speaking to Logically Facts, Bernpaintner said that the numbers in his video are taken from a 2023 report on the EU Nature Restoration law by the interest organization The Federation of Swedish Farmers (LRF). "If the LRF has miscalculated this, you should 'fact-check' them, as they are the source, and I am but a humble user," he added.

This report states that over 500,000 acres (20.8 percent) of Sweden's farmland could be impacted by the regulation – not that it may be taken out of production.

Additionally, the LRF's report provides no clear reference for its claim that "increased requirements on landscape elements and populations of birds and pollinators correspond to 250,000 hectares that need to be removed from food production."

The report also states that "the demand to restore farmland to wetland can according to Naturvårdsverket involve up to 375,000 hectares." This number, however, has not been put forward by Naturvårdsverket as a realistic suggestion for wetland restoration  — it reflects the maximum theoretical acreage of farmland that could be affected (which is not the same as rewetted) in a "high impact scenario" where no consideration is given to agricultural production. The amount of organic agricultural farmland that would be rewetted under this "high-impact scenario" is 46,000 hectares by 2050, according to the Naturvårdsverket report the LRF refers to. Naturvårdsverket emphasized to Logically Facts that this calculation was based on the Commission's original proposal and that the version now approved by the Parliament has reduced its requirements.

Commenting on the numbers in the LRF report, Anna Lindhagen, a senior adviser at Naturvårdsverket, told Logically Facts that the new law does not intend to take farmland out of production. "I don't know why the LRF states that 250,000 hectares may need to be taken out of production," she said, "although there may be needs for enhanced biodiversity considerations in managing agricultural land."

"The quote from LRF's report is misleading for several reasons," Torbjörn Ebenhard, research director at the Center for Biological Diversity at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, told Logically Facts. "The EU regulation, as it now stands, does not force farmers or private landowners to rewet any land at all. It is voluntary. Also, rewetting is not necessarily about converting cultivated land to natural wetlands, but raising the groundwater level on drained peatland – which does not necessarily exclude continued use."

What's more, Ebenhard said, the calculation made by the LRF seems to assume that all 3 million hectares of agricultural land in Sweden consist of drained peatland, which is not the case – making the 250,000 figure "grossly overestimated."

"The regulation requires that by 2030, 30 percent of drained peatland should be under restoration, of which a quarter should be rewetted – a total of 7.5 percent of drained peatland. In its calculation example, the LRF has multiplied 3 million hectares of agricultural land by 7.5 percent and obtained 225,000 hectares – 250,000 must be a typo," he said.

Echoing Lindhagen's remark, Ebenhard said that the EU Nature Restoration law does not intend to take farmland out of production: "On the contrary, page 108 in the EU regulation carefully states that we should restore but at the same time remain our capacity to produce food." 

As another example of how restoration can be embedded into existing farming practices, rather than shutting down production, Naturvårdsverket's Lindhagen said more grassland needs to be grazed by animals to preserve grassland-dependent habitats, and that this practice can contribute to the goal of increasing the domestic food supply.

This point has also been raised in a POLITICO article about misinformation regarding the EU Nature Restoration law, highlighting that land restoration is not the same as creating a nature reserve and does not equate to shutting down economic activity.

What's next?

The EU Nature Restoration law will not be formally approved by the Member States until March or April 2024. This means that member states have not yet drafted their national restoration plans.

"The data presented by Naturvårdsverket does not contain an overall target for how much land is affected, and I am not aware that Sweden has set such a target," Naturvårdsverket's Lindhagen said.

Ebenhard said that the LRF's report is based on the European Commission's first proposal, which had stricter requirements. "The proposal now on the table for the EU Council to decide on is a compromise that addresses many of the concerns raised by LRF and similar organizations following the Commission's proposal," he said.

An adviser at the Swedish Government Offices told Logically Facts that Sweden has not yet made any decisions regarding the implementation of the law. They emphasized that the EU Nature Restoration law requires member states to take the necessary measures to involve stakeholders such as farmers and landowners in all stages of the preparation, review, and implementation of the restoration plan.

The verdict

The LRF's report, which Bernpaintner refers to, states that 21 percent of farmland could be "impacted" by the EU Nature Restoration law. This does not mean the land is taken out of production. Furthermore, this report reflects the first proposal of the law, not the current one being passed, which Bernpaintner fails to mention. The current form of the EU Nature Restoration law has made concessions based on concerns raised by organizations like LRF.

Due to this, we have rated this claim as misleading.

Logically Facts has approached LRF for a comment, and this fact-check will be updated when we receive a response.

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English , Svenska

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