Organic Agriculture

, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp 103–116 | Cite as

Farmers’ reasons for deregistering from organic farming

  • Matthias KoeslingEmail author
  • Anne-Kristin Løes
  • Ola Flaten
  • Niels Heine Kristensen
  • Mette Weinreich Hansen


Every year since 2002, 150 to 200 farmers in Norway have deregistered from certified organic production. The aim of this study was to get behind these figures and improve our understanding of the reasoning leading to decisions to opt out. Four cases of deregistered organic farmers with grain, sheep, dairy or vegetable production were selected for in-depth studies. The cases were analysed from the perspective of individual competencies and the competencies available in the networks of the selected organic farmers. Besides the conspicuous reasons to opt out of certified organic farming, such as regulations getting stricter over time and low income, personal reasons such as disappointment and need for acceptance were also important. This shows that hard mechanisms, such as economic support and premium prices, are not sufficient to motivate farmers for sustained organic management. Support and encouragement, for example from people in the local community, politicians and other spokespersons, would likely contribute to increase farmers’ motivation.


Organic agriculture Motivation Competence Interview Deregistering Case study 



We thank J. Brian Hardaker and the reviewers for their many relevant comments that greatly improved the quality of this article. Also, we want to thank Gudbrand Lien for his cooperation and discussing the results. The financial support from the Research Council of Norway and the Agricultural Agreement Research Fund is gratefully acknowledged. Last but not least, thanks to the participating Norwegian farmers for their openness, hospitability and interest to co-operate in this study.


  1. Best H (2010) Environmental concern and the adoption of organic agriculture. Soc Nat Resour 23:451–468CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bourdieu P (1977) Outline of a theory of practice. Cambridge University Press, LondonGoogle Scholar
  3. Bourdieu P (1984) Distinction: a social critique of the judgement of taste. Routledge and Kegan, LondonGoogle Scholar
  4. Carolan MS (2006) Social change and the adoption and adaptation of knowledge claims: whose truth do you trust in regard to sustainable agriculture? Agric Hum Values 23:325–339CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cranfield J, Henson S, Holliday J (2010) The motives, benefits, and problems of conversion to organic production. Agric Hum Values 27:291–306CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Debio (2011) Statistikk 2010. Available at: Accessed 19 May 2011
  7. Denzin NK, Lincoln YS (Eds) (2005) The Sage handbook of qualitative research. Third Edition. Thousand Oaks, CA, Sage PublicationsGoogle Scholar
  8. Firth C, Schmutz U, Pearson D (2008) Reviewing the drivers and barriers to conversion to organic fruit and vegetable production in the UK. Neuhoff D et al. (eds.) Cultivating the future based on science. Volume 1—Organic Crop Production. ISOFAR and FIBL, Bonn and FrickGoogle Scholar
  9. Flaten O, Lien G, Koesling M, Valle PS, Ebbesvik M (2005) Comparing risk perceptions and risk management in organic and conventional dairy farming: empirical results from Norway. Livest Prod Sci 95:11–25CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Flaten O, Lien G, Ebbesvik M, Koesling M, Valle PS (2006) Do the new organic producers differ from the “old guard”? Empirical results from Norwegian dairy farming. Renew Agric Food Syst 21:174–182CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Flaten O, Lien G, Koesling M, Løes A-K (2010) Norwegian farmers ceasing certified organic production: characteristics and reasons. J Environ Manage 91:2717–2726PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Flyvbjerg B (2006) Five misunderstandings about case-study research. Qual Inq 12:219–245CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Guthman J (2004) Agrarian dreams: the paradox of organic farming in California. University of California Press, Berkeley and Los AngelesGoogle Scholar
  14. Harris F, Robinson GM, Griffiths I (2008) A study of the motivations and influences on farmers’ decisions to leave the organic farming sector in the United Kingdom. In: Robinson GM (ed) Sustainable rural systems: sustainable agriculture and rural communities. Ashgate, AldershotGoogle Scholar
  15. IFOAM: International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (2006) Principles of organic agriculture. Accessed 26 August 2011
  16. Kaltoft P, Risgaard M-L (2006) Has organic farming modernized itself out of business? Reverting to conventional methods in Denmark. In: Holt G, Reed M (eds) Sociological perspectives of organic agriculture: from pioneer to policy. CAB International, WallingfordGoogle Scholar
  17. Kirner L, Vogel S, Schneeberger W (2006) Intended and actual behavior of organic farmers in Austria after a five-year commitment period. Renew Agric Food Syst 21:95–105CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kjeldsen C, Ingemann JH (2009) From the social to the economic and beyond? A relational approach to the historical development of Danish organic food networks. Sociol Ruralis 49:151–171CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Koesling M, Ebbesvik M, Lien G, Flaten O, Valle PS (2004) Risk and risk management in organic and conventional cash crop farming in Norway. Food Econ Acta Agric Scand Sect C 1:195–206Google Scholar
  20. Koesling M, Flaten O, Lien G (2008) Factors influencing the conversion to organic farming in Norway. IJARGE 7:78–95CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kolb DA (1984) Experiential learning: experience as the source of learning and development. Prentice-Hall, Englewood CliffsGoogle Scholar
  22. Kvale S (1996) Interviews: an introduction to qualitative research interviewing. Sage, Thousand OaksGoogle Scholar
  23. Läpple D (2010) Adoption and abandonment of organic farming: an empirical investigation of the Irish drystock sector. J Agric Econ 61:697–714CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Lien G, Flaten O, Jervell AM, Ebbesvik M, Koesling M, Valle PS (2006) Management and risk characteristics of part-time and full-time farmers in Norway. Rev Agric Econ 28:111–131CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. LMD (Ministry of Agriculture and Food (2009) Handlingsplan for å nå målet om 15 pst. økologisk produksjon og forbruk i 2015. Økonomisk, agronomisk-økologisk! Landbruks- og matdepartementet, OsloGoogle Scholar
  26. Mann S, Gairing M (2012) “Loyals” and “Optimizers”: shedding light on the decision for or against organic agriculture among Swiss farmers. J Agric Environ Ethics 25:365–376CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Padel S (2001) Conversion to organic farming: a typical example of the diffusion of an innovation? Sociol Ruralis 41:40–61CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Prahalad CK, Hamel G (1990) The core competence of the corporation. Harvard Bus Rev 68:79–91Google Scholar
  29. Putnam RD (1993) Making democracy work: civic traditions in modern Italy. Princeton, NJ, Princeton UniversityGoogle Scholar
  30. Rigby D, Young T, Burton M (2001) The development of and prospects for organic farming in the UK. Food Policy 26:599–613CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Rychen DS (2003) Key competencies: meeting important challenges in life. In: Rychen DS, Salganik LH (eds) Key competencies for a successful life and a well-functioning society. Hogrefe and Huber Publishers, Göttingen, pp 63–107Google Scholar
  32. Senge P (1990) The fifth discipline: the art and practice of the learning organization. Currency Doubleday, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  33. Sierra L, Klonsky K, Strochlic R, Brodt S, Molinar R (2008) Factors associated with deregistration among organic farmers in California. California Institute for Rural Studies, DavisGoogle Scholar
  34. Vartdal B, Løes A-K (1994) Farmers approaches to organic farming: motivations, barriers and different strategies. Proceedings of NJF-seminar no. 237. Converting to organic agriculture. St Michel, FinlandGoogle Scholar
  35. Vedeld P, Krogh E, Vatn A (2003) Good agronomy. Social institutions among Norwegian farmers and implications for public sector governance. Paper presented at XX Congress of the European Society for Rural Sociology, 18–22 August 2003, Sligo, IrelandGoogle Scholar
  36. Verhoog H, Matze M, van Bueren EL, Baars T (2003) The role of the concept of the natural (naturalness) in organic farming. J Agric Environ Ethics 16:29–49CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. von Hippel E (1994) “Sticky information” and the locus of problem solving: implications for innovation. Manag Sci 40:429–439CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Willer H, Kilcher L (eds) (2010) The world of organic agriculture. Statistics and emerging trends 2010. Bonn and Frick: IFOAM and FiBLGoogle Scholar
  39. Yin RK (2002) Case study research: design and methods, 3rd edn. Sage, Thousand OaksGoogle Scholar
  40. Zagata L (2010) How organic farmers view their own practice: results from the Czech Republic. Agric Hum Values 27:277–290CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science & Business Media BV 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthias Koesling
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Anne-Kristin Løes
    • 1
  • Ola Flaten
    • 3
  • Niels Heine Kristensen
    • 4
  • Mette Weinreich Hansen
    • 4
  1. 1.Organic Food and Farming DivisionBioforsk-Norwegian Institute for Agricultural and Environmental ResearchTingvollNorway
  2. 2.Institute of Organic FarmingFederal Research Institute for Rural Areas, Forestry and Fisheries vTIWesterauGermany
  3. 3.Norwegian Agricultural Economics Research InstituteOsloNorway
  4. 4.Department of Development and PlanningAalborg University CopenhagenBallerupDenmark

Personalised recommendations