Is certification for you?

Certification is a financial, long-term commitment and must be looked at as a commercial investment rather than just a way your business can support the industry. If you are dedicated to the certification process (which includes detailed record keeping, annual auditing and inspections) then certification can provide financial benefits in the long-run. Certification can improve market access, provide avenues into price-premium markets and export markets.

Steps for preparing for certification

  • 1 Compliance with relevant standards

    The first step in preparing for certification is ensuring you are complying, or will be able to comply, with the relevant standards. Download and read the relevant sections of the standards.

    In Australia, the base line certification is to the National Standard for Organic and Bio-dynamic Produce 3.7

    You may also find our standard, the Australian Certified Organic Standard 2019, to be helpful.

  • 2 Prepare your Organic Management Plan

    Organic farming and food manufacturing relies upon proactive management of the various challenges and risks your operation may face. Accordingly, organic certification relies upon you having a detailed Organic Management Plan (sometimes referred to as Organic System Plan, Organic Farm Plan, Organic Handling Plan etc.).

    Organic certifications are based on your preparation of an Organic Management Plan (OMP), submission to a Certification Body for approval of your plan, and then an on site inspection to check if the approved Organic Management Plan matches reality. This means that your OMP needs to be well detailed.

    Information that should be documented in your OMP includes:

    For farms:

    • Soil fertility and organic matter management
    • Pest and disease management
    • Environmental issues
    • Biodiversity
    • Prevention of contamination from neighbours, roadsides etc.
    • Record keeping and traceability

    For food handling or processing facilities:

    • Record keeping systems
    • Separation of organic from non organic produce
    • Cleaning and pest control
    • Traceability and in-out balance
  • 3 Select your certification body

    There are currently five reputable, government approved Certification Bodies (CBs) in Australia. If you wish to display Australian Organic’s Bud organic logo, and support our work, the first two CBs in the below list can provide certification to the Bud scheme. If you are less concerned about the logo, you can choose from any of the five CBs.

    Australian Organic ‘Bud’ licensed Certification Bodies

    ACO Certification Limited 07 3350 5706 info@aco.net.au
    AUS-QUAL 07 3361 9200 ausqual@ausqual.com.au

    Government and ISO/IEC 17065 accredited Certification Bodies

    Bio-Dynamic Research Institute (BDRI) 03 5966 7333 info@demeter.org.au
    NASAA Certified Organic (NCO) 08 7231 7700 info@ncocertifiedorganic.com.au
    Organic Food Chain (OFC) 0400 979 435 ofc@organicfoodchain.com.au

    All the above CBs provide a similar service – certification to the National Standard. Some CBs are able to offer additional export market access, so if you are planning to export, be sure to mention this to the CB when you make your enquiry. Also see our Resources for Exporters for further guidance.

    We encourage you to enquire with several CBs and compare their services, pricing structures, and capacity to provide certification in your location, for your product type, and destination market.

    Many CBs will have Information Kits or Application Packs available. Any queries can be sent back to the relevant CB. Gather as much information as you can, so you can make an informed choice.

  • 4 Submit your application

    Once you are confident you can comply, have prepared at least a draft Organic Management Plan and selected a CB, you are ready to submit an application. Some CBs will require you to reformat your OMP into their format, others will not. Typically you will be required to submit a written application, using the CBs standard forms, and make at least a down payment prior to your first audit.

  • 5 Receive your initial audit

    Once your CB has reviewed your Application, and approved your OMP, your first audit will be scheduled. Typically, a subcontracted auditor will contact you directly to arrange a mutually convenient time. Expect to spend 3 hours or more with your auditor, and be aware you are required to allow his or her access to all areas of your property and relevant records. If you have concerns about confidentiality, it may help to discuss this with your CB prior to your scheduled audit.

    Some things to keep in mind:

    • No money will change hands between you and your auditor – this is handled separately through your CB.
    • The auditor does not make certification decisions – he / she is there to collect information and to verify that your approved OMP matches reality.
    • The auditor is NOT allowed to provide specific advice as to what you should do in your operation to comply with the standards. The auditor may only help you understand the relevant sections of the standard, and provide general advice or different options for how compliance may be achieved. You don’t have to do what the auditor says.
    • If the auditor identifies potential non-compliances, you will have a chance after the audit to rebut or appeal directly with staff at your CB. So, if you are stuck on an issue and don’t agree with your auditor’s assessment, it may be better to move on and work it out with your CB following the audit.
    • Your auditor is bound by confidentiality agreements with the CB. Any information collected can only be shared with you and the CB, and any accreditation bodies to which the CB is accredited by.
  • 6 Receive report, CB review, and (hopefully!) your certificate

    Once your auditor submits your audit report to your CB, it is then reviewed by a qualified reviewer. You may then be issued with Corrective Action Requests (CARs), or Non Compliances (or similar wording), which may need to be corrected within a given timeframe, or before your next audit.

    Once you accept, or respond adequately to any CARs or similar, your certificate will be issued.  You are then able to commence trading, utilizing organic claims, and your CBs logo. It is a good idea to keep in regular contact with your CB, seek approvals for inputs, labels etc., to make sure you don’t get any surprises at your next audit.