There are a number of organic certifying bodies
which operate under accreditation by the Department of Agriculture to certify to the export standard National Standard for Organic and Bio-Dynamic Produce
. These certify for both the domestic and the export markets. Please check to make sure that the certification agency complies with your needs for either domestic only or export of your product.
The Organic Industry Standards and Certification Council (OISCC
) audits organic industry organisations against the requirements of the National Standard fo
r Organic and Biodynamic Produce to ensure that the integrity of organic product is maintained. See the OISCC to download the Standards.
The National Standard for Organic and Biodynamic Produce was written in consultation with the certifying bodies and the Australian Government and is maintained by OISCC. The National Standard applies to export produce but is currently used as a defacto domestic standard for many of the certification agencies. For more information about exporting organic and bio-dynamic products
refer to the Department of Agriculture web site.
For product destined for the domestic market only and does not enter supply chains for export products, Standards Australia has written the AS6000
What is Bio-Dynamic Farming?
Bio-dynamic farming refers to a specific type of organic farming based on the principles of Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner. Special composts, specific preparations and plant activators are used in accordance with those principles.
This is a closed system of farming where no outside inputs are allowed except one-off inputs such as essential trace elements.
For more information on Bio-Dynamic Farming visit the Bio-Dynamics Tasmania website.
Suitable land and a high level of motivation and commitment are essential for a grower looking to start or convert to organic or bio-dynamic production. Once the decision has been made, it is time to start planning.
Planning for the conversion process consists of a farm audit, to establish the current situation, followed by a step-by-step action plan that outlines what changes will be needed in order to comply with the organic standards.
The action plan will include gathering information on:
- soil fertility improvement
- rotation design, cultivation and tillage
- weed, pest and disease control
- livestock requirements and farm infrastructure
- labour requirements
- financial implications, marketing requirements and risk assessment.
Compiling this information to produce an organic management plan is a useful way to define the system you plan to implement and highlight which aspects may require further consideration.
The following workbook produced by the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education provides detailed information and ideas on how to develop an organic management plan.Registering with a Certified Body
Develop an Organic Management Plan (2Mb)
A prospective organic farmer has to decide with which certifying body to register. Once a decision has been made, contact has to be made with the body of choice. Fees vary from set amounts to percentages per year. Farmers seeking certification are encouraged to undertake their own
research to ensure the certification body of their choice provides the service
they are looking for and will continue to do so in the future.
The process involves a statutory declaration on the previous five year history of the property as to whether unacceptable chemicals or fertilisers have been used and how long ago. Once the certifying body accepts the application, an independent inspector, employed by the certifying body inspects the property.
The inspector will take soil and tissue samples which are tested for nutrients (ie cadmium levels) not acceptable to the industry. They will also be looking for herbicide and dip chemical residues. Provided all these test results are satisfactory, the property goes into what is called "pre-certification" for a year. Product is sold into the conventional market.
A different inspector inspects each year so as to create a totally transparent process.
During pre-certification period only organically approved inputs are allowed on the property. Every event, input, product generated and sold must be recorded for an annual audit.
At the end of the first year the property is inspected again and the records of all operations are audited. If all processes have been complied with, the inspector will recommend to the certifying body that the property enter the two year "in conversion" phase.
After the first year, the property enters the organic 'in conversion' period, when produce sold in the organic marketplace can be labelled accordingly. 'In conversion' labels may attract a small premium.
A property 'in conversion' is defined in organic standards as:
“A production system that has adhered to the standard for at least one year, and has been certified as such, but has not qualified as organic for various reasons. These include reasons such as the conversion system has not been operated within the requirements for the specified period (usually three years); the farm does not meet quality standards, such as soil structure considered appropriate and necessary for organic farms; or the organic management plan has not been sufficiently developed."
The record keeping of all aspects of the farming operation is recorded for the annual audit. At the end of the first year of iin conversion' the annual inspection and audit takes place. If all processes have been complied with, the inspector will recommend proceeding to the final 'in conversion' year.
At the end of the third year of conversion the property is inspected again under the same rules. If all is satisfactory the inspector will recommend that the property be certified organic.
Paperwork and Inspections
Certification is granted after inspection by an approved inspector who reports to the certification body. Before the inspection, the farmer must complete a farm conversion plan questionnaire provided by the certification body.
Information required includes a background to the operation, an organic management plan, and maps detailing production areas, the irrigation system, storage facilities and surrounding land use. Application dates of the last prohibited inputs are also required.
The farmer is expected to work closely with the inspection body and must complete legal documents that pledge to abide by the regulations of the organisation. Certified farmers are licensed to use the certifier's organic label on their produce.
To ensure their production methods are in compliance to the standard, certified farmers are subject to an annual inspection by the certification body. The inspection includes a review of the farmer's performance and ability to comply with the standard.
In compliance with DAWR, all organic farms are audited each year to retain their organic status. Failure anywhere along the way can cause suspension or cancellation of the certification, depending on the severity of the breach.
The certification process involves the owner/manager of the property meeting the certification guidelines. If the property changes hands and the new owner does not have a history in the organic industry, he/she will be monitored for twelve months to ensure they meet the organic standards. An organic farmer who transfers to a new non-organic farm must go through the three year certification process for that new farm for it to become certified organic.