|Chosen papers on organic farming
Barriers of conversion into organic farming
Several studies show that organic farming is more profitable than conventional farming at least if the premium is paid (for example Acs 2005, Kaval 2004), but in reality many farmers do not convert to organic farming. There are many reasons, which hinder conventional farmers from managing their farm organically. Barriers are divided here to financial, cognitive and emotional barriers.
The first risk of conversion is material or financial hurdles. The most important problems are (1) hired labour on more labour intensive organic production, (2) the transition period from conventional to organic farming and (3) the analysis of risk and uncertainty concerning the yield and market accessibility after conversion (Acs 2005).
Organic farming increases labour input. A farmer has much to do hisself and need to employ extra labour. Problems mainly arise from the labour organisation that the farmer has to work together with seasonal labour and he cannot organise efficiently the work together with them (Acs 2005). In Finland some organic farmers convert back to conventional farmers, because they want to use direct drilling. When they use direct drilling costs and work time decreases. However, direct drilling is not suitable for organic farming, because mechanical ploughing is an important way to control weeds.
Conversion period is another problem if the farmer wants to convert to organic farming. This period takes 2 years during which the conversion product has to be grown in an organic way but can be sold only for conventional price. During this period also a lot of changes and investments should be done which can cause financial problems for the farmer. Farmers have to invest in new equipments and usually in new livestock sheds. During the conversion period yields are often lower and weeds and diseases can be a problem. It takes some years before organic fields reach the balance and yields increases.
In Finland only 8 % of organic farms have organic animals, although 50 % of organic farms have livestock. There are many reasons, why conversion of livestock into organic is so rare: it is not compulsory to converse animals into organic, producers prices are very low, buildings are unsuitable to organic production, some regulations (like feeding, out keeping…) and problems with products delivery and processing. Slaughterhouses do not want to take organic meat, because they need own lines for them. The demand of organic meat is so low, that it is not profitable to keep separate lines.
In case of organic farming the production risk is much higher compared to conventional farming. This is mainly due to the fact that it is prohibited to use any kind of fertiliser and pesticides in organic farming which make the crops more resistant against pests and diseases (Acs 2005).
In addition there are risks of marketing. The organic market access is a problem, which can prohibit the farmers to convert to organic farming. If they cannot sell their products as organic for higher price, after they produced it in organic way their income would drop considerably (Acs 2005).
Costs of certification can also be a barrier especially to small farms in developing countries. One way to overpass this difficulty is the group certification, which splits the costs among many farmers, from 10 to 5000 or even more. In developing countries also agro-industrial aid programs and insecure land tenure can be barriers to conversion.
Farmers have to calculate labour input and investments before conversion. They need also new information of yield stability and in addition support in marketing.
A barrier into conversion can be lack of information and knowledge about organic farming. Organic farming needs different kind of production techniques and farm organizations. Farmers may have lack of knowledge about benefits of agroecology. They do not know how the organic farming methods influence the soil.
Farmers can also think that the required administrative input is too high and the amount of paperwork increases. Directives can also be too strict to some farmers if their farm structure is not suitable for a conversion. Some farmers think that inspections are too stressful. Also marketing unsure can be a barrier and uncertainty about future environmental policy.
Requirements to lower these barriers are farm planning and extension, development of programmers promoting environmental issues and education.
There are also emotional barriers of conversion into organic farming, which are caused from socio cultural differences in values and attitudes. Farmers can have anxiety of being labeled outsider or “green” crackpot in the village and they can feel that everybody is only waiting their mistake. Also they can have skepticism or rejection within their own family or conflicts between the generations (father-son conflict). Conversion can also cause termination of delivery contracts and exit from associations. Some farmers can think that organic farming is back to the old techniques and they would like to fully utilize the technical possibilities. Barriers can be also lack of farmers’ own initiative. They can be disaccustoming and discouragement by the agrarian policy and the farmers association and they have demotivation to the point of resignation.
To remove emotional barriers huge requirement of activating impulses within agriculture, society and politics are needed.
- Acs, S., Berentsen, P.B.M., de Wolf, M. & Huirne, R.B.M. 2005. Bio-economic modelling of arable farming system, comparison of conventional and organic farming systems in the Netherlands. Business Economics Group, Department of Social Sciences, Wageningen University, The Netherlands.
- Kaval, P. 2004. The Profitability of Alternetive Cropping Systems: A Review of the Literature. Journal of Sustainable Agriculture, Vol. 23 (3) 2004. p. 47-61. http://www.haworthpress.com/web/JSA