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CEO UPDATES

Updates from Niki Ford, CEO of Australian Organic Ltd

NOVEMBER & december 2019

Earlier this year I advised that 2019 was to be the year of rebuilding for Australia Organic Ltd (AOL). I can say with confidence that we have indeed rebuilt. Over the past 12 months AOL has reviewed, revised, restructured, and rebuilt who we are and what we stand for. We have also further defined what it is we will deliver for our members and the organic industry.

November and December saw continued strategic discussion on the pathway to Domestic Regulation, provided an enhanced understanding of the impacts of the Gene Technology Amendments put to Parliament, and heralded the announcement of our partnership with AUS-QUAL.

The 2019 AGM held in Melbourne during November was attended by 30 members. All resolutions were accepted, and the Director ballots were announced with Martin Meek, Sonya Dowling and Iain Scholes all reaffirmed by the members. The Board also voted to see Martin Meek remain as Chair.

An energetic and rewarding period to close out the year.

As we wrap up the year, it’s fitting to remind all of the hardship many of our members and industry colleagues are currently facing with the changing climate. Our thoughts are with those fighting fires across the nation and with those who are grieving the loss of loved ones, property and livestock. On behalf of Australian Organic Ltd I extend to you and your family our best wishes for a safe festive season. May the year ahead bring you good health, happiness and rain. See you in 2020, the year for Domestic Regulation.

Regards,

Niki Ford
Chief Executive Officer
Australian Organic Ltd

TOGETHER WE ARE STRONGER

Each Advisory Committee has met over the past two months providing timely progress on sector related matters. The Grain Committee Chair, Ian Mack and I met in Toowoomba recently to confirm a concise Mission statement and key objectives, as well as a list of accountable stakeholders to assist in driving the committee agenda.

The Allowed Input Committee saw three new members contribute to discussion, providing insights to ensure all Organic Inputs are produced to the highest standard. Next year the committee will deliver a complete review of Allowed Inputs with ACOS 2020 due out in the first six months.

The Livestock Committee agreed that the supply of grain, fraud, and products certified to AS6000, continue to be their key focus issues. No less important as an ongoing topic of discussion and exploration is the pressure which ongoing drought and bushfires continuing to place on fodder supply for our livestock producers. Future meetings will begin to address strategic plans to address these issues.

Following on from previous Vigneron Committee discussion, Mike Brown (Vigneron Chair) and Mark Davidson had a productive meeting with Mark Shaw, GM of ACO Certification Ltd, regarding certification challenges. As a result of the open dialogue a new Certification Officer, Georgia Linn, has been specifically tasked with managing the day-to-day requirements for Vignerons. The ongoing collaboration between the Vigneron committee and Mark Shaw from ACO Certification Ltd has demonstrated the positive outcomes that can be reached through the Advisory Committees.

TOGETHER WE ARE STRONGER

continued

Meanwhile, the Horticulture Committee celebrated the success achieved with the Department of Agriculture regarding seed fumigation which began last year. Key outcomes were – Meanwhile, the Horticulture Committee celebrated the success achieved with the Department of Agriculture regarding seed fumigation which began last year. Key outcomes were –

1. Brassica oleraceae completely removed from the report, and any mandatory treatment. (eg. Broccoli, cauliflowers, Brussel sprouts, cabbage etc)
2. Exemptions for sprouts, under approved arrangements
3. Heat treatment and PCR testing allowed as alternatives

It is worth noting that all Advisory Committee members volunteer their time to support the best endeavours for their sector. I want to celebrate and commend their generous contributions to organic industry over the past year.

Mike Brown, Ian Mack, Marg Will, Owen Gwilliam, Wayne Shields, Mark Davidson, Petar Pirovic, Gary Leeson, Rachel Davis, Teresa Trimboli, Katrina Hobbs, Philippa Davies, Kelvin Free, Jackie Amos, Simon Schulz, Michael Holford, Vincent Eysseic, Troy Kalleske, Ron Phillips, Shane Trainer, Don Murray, Ben Gould, Rick McDougall, Peter Gall, Ian King, Sachin Ayachit, Chitra Adhinarayanan, Jason O’Dea, Peter Gall, Aeisha Osman, Kim Morgan, Angus Dowling, Jessica Blokland, Martin Meek, Casie O’Brien

THE STRATEGIC ROADMAP

Your Board and Executive have completed the revision of our Strategic Plan which will serve to guide our activities for the promotion of our industry over the next five years. The strategic plan is intended as a dynamic document which will continue to be reviewed to ensure it remains relevant to the industry’s future.

Our number one priority for 2020 is delivering Domestic Regulation in line with our world class Export standard. The enhanced Governance of products claiming to be organic will not only ensure certified operators are no longer competing with ‘fake’ organics but will also ensure consumers aren’t fooled at the point-of-sale. The consistency of production will support further discussion with international trade partners who have historically been confused by our voluntary standard for organic production.

Over the past two months, and since Minister McKenzie agreed to champion the cause, we have been relentless in our pursuit of continued engagement and consultation with State and Federal Ministers, the Departments of Agriculture, Trade and Industry, the ACCC Commissioner Mick Keogh, FSANZ and State Food Authorities, as well as key Industry bodies to ensure the messaging is clear.

A key factor is AOL becoming a standalone peak industry body was to allow more certified operators access to the Bud logo. The Bud is the most recognised organic mark in Australia, it is synonymous with consumers understanding of what is truly organic. We are very proud to have announced a partnership with AUS-QUAL last month, making them the second certification body to license the Bud logo.

AUS-QUAL is Australia and New Zealand’s leading agribusiness auditing, certification and training provider. As a wholly owned subsidiary of AUS-MEAT Limited, which has contributed to the growth success of the red meat industry in Australia, AUS-QUAL provides services to the broader agricultural industry. View the press release here.

INFLUENCING DECISION

Despite ongoing dialogue regarding concerns with Federal representatives, the proposed amendments to the gene technology regulations to exclude SDN-1 were passed through Parliament. On November 13, the disallowance motion regarding the amendments to the Gene Technology legalisation tabled by Senator Rice, was defeated in the Senate 42-13 and the already lifted regulatory requirements of October 8th, became a part of Australian legislation.

Despite ongoing dialogue regarding concerns with Federal representatives, the proposed amendments to the gene technology regulations to exclude SDN-1 were passed through Parliament. On November 13, the disallowance motion regarding the amendments to the Gene Technology legalisation tabled by Senator Rice, was defeated in the Senate 42-13 and the already lifted regulatory requirements of October 8th, became a part of Australian legislation.

Information shared by the Minister’s office confirms the USA, Brazil, Argentina and Chile have made similar exclusions, with Japan proposing to do the same. All Departments have confirmed Australia works cooperatively with governments to minimise unnecessary barriers to trade and other issues related to the regulatory oversight of gene technologies. Australia’s strategic engagement in international discussions on biotechnology include participating in the Like-Minded Group Supportive of Innovative Agricultural Production Technologies (LMG) and the Global Low-Level Presence Initiative (GLI).

AOL has, throughout the regulatory review, also engaging with organisations to understand how the legislative changes may impact our industry. AOL is committed to ongoing dialogue to ensure we stay abreast of any direct or indirect issues.  Some recent examples include;

  • Requests for Departments to respond to Market Access concerns
  • Engaging with sector research partners to understand commercialisation prospects
  • Consultation with Trade partners to understand offshore learnings (USA, Brazil, Argentina, Chile) and any challenges that may impact trade relationships
  • Creation of an organic database to provide a resource for industry access
  • Review of the ACOS to ensure SDN-1 is specifically outlined as prohibited
  • Submission to NSsC to ensure SDN-1 is specifically outlined as prohibited with the suggestion wording to mirror CODEX terminology

The Gene Technology discussion will be ongoing and as will our request for ensuring market access remains uncompromised.

ESTABLISHING GLOBAL PARTNERSHIPS

During December I was privileged to spend time with Carlo Leifert at Southern Cross University (SCU). Carlo initiated Australia’s first Centre for Organic Research program (COR) at the Lismore campus. I was disappointed to learn however that Carlo would be finishing up with the program and returning the UK.

The exceptional work that is occurring at SCU within the COR program will provide our industry with the tangible detail needed to drive our industry forward. Funding for this program will unfortunately cease in two years and the University researchers are seeking assistance with securing sustained funding.

Carlo is world-renowned organic industry Professor who is currently having research peer reviewed that will again provide supporting evidence to what we all know that organic production is best in class.

SECURING OUR SEAT AT THE TABLE

The Department of Agriculture hosted several forums in the past few months. I was invited to two very topical forums – Australian Grains and National Biosecurity. Observing and contributions at these forums I have come to understand the challenges that we face are not unique to the organic industry and by working across industry and with key stakeholders we can collaborate to provide real solutions together.

Insights delivered by the Bureau of Meteorology predict climate change is a very real issue and that continuing to farm the regions we have for generations may not be an option should we continue to produce in the same way. Australian agriculture is at a crossroads and although it may be an uncomfortable discussion or concept, the time is past due to review where our future lies.

Increased Government focus on Biosecurity has had a direct impact on organic import permits. This will remain extant with efforts to guard against the incursion of industry threatening contagions such as African Swine Fever (ASF) which is raging across Asia and Europe. Animals infected with ASF have 80% mortality rate and the virus can be passed on through cooked or raw pork products. Our highest risks for ASF infecting Australian livestock is through contaminated food transported by passengers through airport security.

CONSUMER REACH

The 2019 Australia Organic Industry Awards hosted in Melbourne was another sell out event, with attendance by members and guests from across the country. Mal Flannery was inducted into the Hall of Fame for his visionary work in retailing and Vanya Cullen receiving the Chairman’s Award in recognition for her exceptional dedication to the organic wine sector. Business of the Year was deservedly awarded to Angove Wines and Petar Pirovic is our new Farmer of the Year.

View all of the 2019 Australian Organic Industry Awards Winners here.