Banks pressure organic farmers to give up
Organic farmers are under increasing pressure to turn to conventional farming methods, report a number of dairies and organic associations.
The economic crisis was particularly tough for organic milk farmers, who suffered a bad crop of cattle feed that forced them to buy more at high prices, while many Danes decided to swap out organic milk with cheaper kinds.
“Over the past few years we have been hearing of an increasing number of organic milk producers who have been recommended by their banks to swap to conventional farming,” Ole Sørensen from the organic association Økologisk Landsforening told Jyllands-Posten newspaper.
Organic farms losing appeal
Dairy giant Arla also reports that organic farmers are increasingly discussing transferring to conventional farming methods.
“A few dairies have already decided to stop as organic farms,” Arla spokesperson Theis Brøgger told Jyllands-Posten. “We have also received a number of enquiries from dairies that are considering stopping. It has been many years since we received enquiries like these.”
Organic is expensive
Organic farming is more expensive than using conventional methods and farmers can reduce their debts and increase their liquidity by making the switch.
But Leif Friis Jørgensen, the head of the organic dairy Naturmælk, argues that this is a short-sighted view and that international studies have shown that organic farmers, in the long run, will earn more money than conventional farmers.
“We are on the verge of a period in which the demand for healthy and safe food will grow rapidly,” Jørgensen said. "Consumers' purchasing power will also rise. So it’s short-sighted to force organic farmers to give up. It takes a split second for farmers to move to conventional methods, but years to return to organic.”
Banks: we don't interfere
Banks, however, deny that they are interfering with the way that farmers produce their products.
“Our focus is the numbers,” Sydbank’s regional director for agriculture, Arne Jørgensen, told Jyllands-Posten. “If they are not satisfactory, it’s up to the farmers and their consultants to come up with a solution. In some cases this may mean a transition to conventional farming, but it’s not us who bring it up or demand it.”