CEO UPDATESUpdates from Niki Ford, CEO of Australian Organic Ltd
JANUARY & FEBRUARY 2020
The first two months of 2020 witnessed many operators impacted by the tragic bushfires across our national landscape. Whether affected through fire, smoke, or second and third order impacts, Australians pulled together to support one another. I have spoken to many Bud certified operators over the past few months and have been in awe of the resilience shown despite much devastation.
February however brought some much needed rain to regions that haven’t seen any for years as well as helping extinguish the bushfires. The extreme weather Australia is experiencing has brought attention to the changing climatic conditions impacting our nation and the importance of how we, as a nation, plan to combat those impacts. Regardless of your production sector, we all play a role in the model for change and if it wasn’t obvious before the summer we have had, it certainly must be now.
Thank you for your continued support and I look forward to seeing you on my regional trips.
Chief Executive Officer
Australian Organic Ltd
TOGETHER WE ARE STRONGER
During the height of the bushfire crisis AOL convened an Advisory Committee which provided input into immediate and short-medium term assistance. Detailed information from this discussion highlighted derogations and support immediately available through provisions in the ACOS and National Standard. These documents were also shared with OISCC, Federal & State Government Departments, the NFF and State-based agricultural organisations to assist all certified operators during this time or hardship.
More specifically, AOL provided guidance on Fire Retardant management to Bud Licensees, Industry stakeholders, State Farming organisations and the NFF. Despite being denied additional assistance by the Department of Agriculture, AOL continues to maintain an ongoing dialogue with the Department regarding how operators can best be supported during the rebuild.
THE STRATEGIC ROADMAP
In February 2019, AOL embarked on the mission to deliver domestic regulation for the use of the word ‘organic’ in Australia. Australia is the last developed nation to have a definition for the use of the word organic; currently any business within Australia can use the word, even if as little as 1% of ingredients in the marketed product are organic. Any product claiming organic status that is exported outside of Australia is required, under federal law, to provide a transcript known as an Organic Produce Certificate (OPC). An OPC is only available through the Department of Agriculture and only allowed for an operator who is certified by one of the six certification bodies accredited to the National Standard for Organic & Bio Dynamic Produce.
Put simply, any international consumer who purchases an Australian product claiming to be organic is assured through this process that what they are consuming is genuinely organic. However, under the current legislative framework within Australia, domestic consumers are not afforded the same level of quality assurance.
To enhance the confusion even further, within Australia there is a Standard known as A S 6000. Owned by Standards Australia, this private standard is out of date, incomplete and ungoverned. There is no requirement established by government to audit and manage the organic process under this standard. This lack of governance provides the perfect opportunity for some operators to benefit and profit – to the detriment of authentically organic operators. The National Standard and ACOS are designed to provide quality assurance in a complicated marketplace.
AOL is currently pursuing, with gusto, domestic regulation and firmly believe we will deliver a model which supports business and consumers. AOL is focused on providing a solid foundation for your future, your businesses future and to ensure that all consumers within Australia have the right to truth in labelling.
I was delighted to travel to Tasmania during February where I met with the Tasmanian Ag Minister’s office, Tasmanian DPI, TOP and Tasmanian Farmers & Graziers Association. Formal meetings were arranged to discuss the State’s support for domestic regulation. I was delighted to be informed that Tasmania is adopting a forward leaning posture in supporting certified organics by way of grant funds to assist producer and processors in achieving certification. Tasmania is leading the way with funding initiatives to grow opportunity and to value-add to the organic sector.
I also met with local growers Rex Williams, Trish MacFarlane & the Benson brothers (Chris, Mark and David) who were generous with their time, providing tours of their properties while helping me understand how AOL can better support Australian producers.
SECURING A SEAT AT THE TABLE
AOL’s prompt response to the bushfires provided the opportunity to represent the Australian organic industry at the Agriculture Roundtable at Parliament House during January. It was an honour to provide an update on the industry and advise on the support that was required to help operators to recover and rebuild.
The change in Agriculture Ministers provided the opportunity to reconnect with Minister Littleproud’s office once again and we look forward to providing insight into the regenerative agriculture discussion.
AOL’s 2020 partnership with ABC Organic Gardener provides an exciting opportunity for us to educate readers already invested in an organic lifestyle and also for those wanting to assist consumers to make more informed choices when it comes to organics – such as looking for a certification logo on organic products. Our partnership with ABC Organic Gardener is highly valued, with both partners committed to promoting and growing awareness surrounding organic products in Australia.
Our ongoing support for Naturally Good Expo (NGE) has provided the opportunity to partner with Diversified. Exhibitors this year who are claiming to be organic will be required to provide certificates. This approach to truth in ranging will continue to pave the way to having a certificated organic section within the NGE in coming years.