Organic Insights - Spring 2022


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AGRICULTURE AND DEVELOPMENT Fair Trade and organic certification developed at about the same time

by establishing a public-private partnership with government to manage the standard and provide accreditation for export, and by effective communication of the benefits of organic to consumers. Social networks and surveillance of the market has allowed us to avoid significant fraud, which has also maintained confidence in our systems. Despite this success, we need to be alert to rapid change and associated threats to organic claims, certification, and regulation. Regenerative agriculture is now an important part of the zeitgeist around improving agricultural sustainability and addressing climate change, and NASAA is developing a Regenerative Organic Certification with associated policies. The organic industry also expects a domestic regulatory system to be agreed sometime in 2023 or early 2024, but negotiations with government still have a long way to go, as we have a new parliament and a new set of relevant Federal Ministers that must become familiar with the industry and public consultation so far. Many things are yet to be decided, including whether regulation will mandate certification, or if small uncertified growers will still be able to claim organic and biodynamic on farm gate sales, at farmers markets, in local shops and

and were the first of the current plethora of certifications that primary producers can apply to

their produce, but organic quickly became the market leader, in the value of sales, and for design and governance of voluntary label schemes. The comprehensive, strict, but also practical aspects of organic standards, the quick development and sophistication of inspection, the early development of accreditation systems, and the transparency of all these operations encouraged trust from consumers. Also important was the effort and commitment of certified operators to an ethically driven system. The organic industry achieved this on its own account, with little assistance from government, but ready adherence to accepted norms such as the International Standards Organisation (ISO) guidelines for standard writing and management of certification systems. I now count something like 200 voluntary labels that Australian farmers and fishers can apply to their product, but organic remains the most significant choice in terms of the value of output sold with an organic label, and consumer trust. We have sustained this trust by conformity with the ISO protocols,

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2 / Organic Insights / Spring 2022

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Most organic consumers have assumed that it is not possible that non-compliant produce can carry a certification mark, because the CBs claim to be trustworthy, and to have government accreditation. However, Australian government accreditation applies only to exported produce. Nowhere do the CBs explain that accreditation does not apply to every operator or product. We therefore have a well-known organic logo associated with produce that is grown in containers, which is not permitted in any Australian organic standards, and it is widely available in a major supermarket and elsewhere in the organic distribution chain. This again highlights the importance of implementing domestic regulation, revisiting governance processes by which accreditation is applied to certification bodies, and establishing an independent process of review and grievances. Even if not directly involved, OISCC, the organisation responsible for maintenance of the National Standard, became complicit in continued availability of these non- compliant products, by failing to clarify its responsibilities with the industry, to respond to communication and complaints via their website, or to take any corrective action. Ambiguous statements in OISCC literature allowed the organic industry to assume that they were responsible for proper operation of certification in Australia, but this information turned out to be disingenuous. Inaction eventually led to an untenable situation and the decision by OISCC to turn management of the National Standard over to the Department of Agriculture. This lack of certainty in domestic regulation is what leads researchers such as Christina Do to call organic food labelling in Australia “a murky environment”. 2023 must be the year when we clarify the issue of domestic regulation and regain control of certified products in retail stores. NASAA will continue to advocate for better governance of standards and certification, adequate supervision of the market, and when necessary, regulatory action to remove non-compliant products. Please help us by maintaining your NCO certification and NASAA membership. Do, Christina, 2020 Organic Food Labelling in Australia: AMurky Environment in Need of Reform, in Regulatory Issues in Organic Food Safety in the Asia Pacific, Bee Chen GOH and Rohan Price (Editors) Springer

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in box delivery schemes. NASAA will argue to retain some self-description as organic for very small growers and acceptance of Participatory Guarantee Systems (according to accepted protocols) as a valid form of non-third-party certification, in accordance with the concept IFOAM Organic 3.0 (PGS and Organic 3.0 are described in my contributions to recent Organic Insights magazines available at the NASAA Organic website). An additional concern is that after three decades where the major retail stores mainly required organic products to be certified, I have recently noted an increase in the number of uncertified products available in supermarkets. While we are happy to make a case for availability of locally produced organic products, NASAA believes that certification is needed when selling through third parties such as the major organic wholesalers and supermarkets. Of greater concern is the presence of non- compliant products in the domestic market that carry the logo of a major certification As consumers become better informed on the organic standards and the application of certification in the domestic space, they are also becoming more active in questioning the integrity of application of certification of products making it into major supermarkets. body (CB), with some products under question by consumers at this time.

Organic Insights / Spring 2022 / 3


Welcome to our latest issue of Organic Insights. In this issue we are exploring the role of ethics in business, and the various mechanisms to establish and communicate the cultures and values of businesses throughout agribusiness supply chains. More importantly, what value the mechanisms bring to building the trust between supply chain partners, right through to the end consumer.

In the last three months, we have shared the responsibility between staff and Board Directors in flying the flag for organics at various expos, conferences, and forums. A common theme across these forums has been the discussion of validation of business and the various levels of Government in both addressing and communicating their commitment to SDG’s and ESG’s. We have now entered the world of acronyms…ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) and SDG (Sustainable Development Goals). What is evident is every presentation and conversation in industry now validates its presence, or reports to some form of SDG or ESG benchmark. Conference exploring the role of third-party certification in the Australian Seafood industry. Seafood Directions is the premier seafood industry conference in Australia, hosted by Seafood Industry Australia, and it was a privilege to be included in the discussions for this important industry. Most recently, I was part of a panel discussion at the Seafood Directions

The feedback I receive frommany agri- businesses, large and small, is how highly they value the process of certification in building credibility for their industry, but struggle to personally capitalise on the return of investment required to make the necessary business changes and time commitment to provide all the various audit requirements. As some said- it was easier to be third party certified ten years ago, but the 2022 Standards are now providing a better platform of trust, and a more thorough supply chain commitment to the chain of custody. As we all know, sometimes accreditation to programs is a personal pursuit, and other times it is adopted to gain access to certain markets, or supply specific customers. Regardless, there needs to be trust in what accreditation brings to a business. As is often quoted… “Trust takes a long time to build, and a single moment to lose”.

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Professor Mark Howden, Vice Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Director of the ANU’s Institute for Climate Change, Energy and Disaster Solutions - addressing the Australian Organic Conference 2022.

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6 / Organic Insights / Spring 2022

celebrating 30 years!

What we thought would be a slow trickle has turned into a steady stream of certified operators clocking up their 30-year milestone! We continue to celebrate the commitment of our industry ‘veterans’ across Australia.

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THE BRA IN FAMILY IN THE YEAR 1950 BOUGHT THE MOUNT VITE VITE FARM. This third-generation family farmwas converted to organic in the 1980’s by David and Gary Brain. They were encouraged to go organic with advice from the late Rod May and Alex Podolinsky, along with NASAA Organic's current Chair, TimMarshall and many others with their knowledge and experience.

We are still learning about soil health, biological indicators, ratios, synergies, CO2, pH, humus content, microzia content, bacteria and funghi, brix levels, fertility aerobic ratio, carbon nitrogen ratio, deficiencies and balance. Effective beneficial plant species rotations over 5 years, for example, are pasture, oilseed, legume, cereal and green manure. Consideration should be given to planning ahead, companion planting and multi- combinations, and assessing how this will affect grazing livestock, and the dung beetle cycle. Since the early 2000’s, Mount Vite Organic has been breeding organic Poll Merino stud rams and Poll Charolais stud bulls. Sourcing quality organic seed stock – both plant and animal – has been a major challenge, according to David. David ran a comparative analysis on sourced rams that he undertook over a 15-year period, which showed a much greater stock loss of animals brought in.

Since 2020, David, Luke, Danielle, Hamish and Alexander have been running the farm eco-system, with assistance from Peter and Deb. Over the last 5-6 decades in this region, there has been a wide variation of food and fibre growing, from using high input nitrogenous fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides, to organic biodynamic farming methods. Organic production concentrates on quality, not just quantity, and only uses beneficial methods and inputs. There are major differences between organic and conventional farming. One works with nature and the other works against it, which is similar to what we did before 1980. For example, the reason unwanted weeds grow – in our experience – is bare soil, overgrazing, nil or minimal beneficial plant species competition and low diversity. Then, in most examples and cases, broad leaf scotch and variegated thistles grow. Nature’s way to stop overgrazing and bareness.

Organic Insights / Spring 2022 / 7

Family and Landcare local projects have helped to revegetate parts of the property over time, planting native shelterbelts. David has followed with interest, the work that Landcare and a couple of local secondary schoolteachers have been doing over past years in identifying remnant indigenous species in the area.

“What we do need, is independent scientists verifying practices.”

David sees certification as vital to operations, and highlights the importance of ongoing communication with the certifier, for advice on changes to standards and technical advice. “I think it’s a bit easier for farmers to get into organic these days,” he says. “With the Internet now, it’s easy to find lots of information on organic food growing, and there are more alternative [input] products being sold.” “There’s really no excuse,” he says.

“Out of 94 that we bred – one died, and 2 were sick,” says David. “Of 25 that we brought in, 16 died within the first 2 years and out of the 9 left, 3 were sick – a stock loss of nearly 50% at a cost of around $14,000!” he says. “Clearly, certified organic and bio-dynamic plant and animal live seedstock have natural innate immunity thriftiness and inherent parasite resistance, which also assist with antibodies and antioxidants, reducing pathogens that can cause ill health diseases.” The Vite Vite local area was originally the land inhabited by the Pakemeneck Balug clan of the Wadawurrung Wathaurong community, Aboriginal Australian people, who lived in the area before European Settlement. David says that by about the 1850’s, “sheep had been introduced to the Mount Vite area, the southern boundary of what was then, the historic Carranballac Squatter Station.” “The hard hooved sheep grazed out the indigenous myrnong yam daisies, wallaby and kangaroo grasslands, herbs, shrubs, young legume wattles, sheoaks, bursarias and gums.” By 1950, when David’s family bought the farm, it was treeless, except for a small, recently planted plot of sugar gums around the jackaroo’s cottage. David is passionate about the future being local. “We are seeing lots of large holdings and increasingly overseas ownership,” he says. “For our efficient, ethical and equitable future, our fresh nutritional food sustenance, and our local wellbeing - we need food and fibre grown locally by locals.” David believes this is particularly important with climate change, to stop what he sees as the inefficiencies of moving food around unnecessarily. He also sees the importance, and need for independent scientists and agronomists, offering their independent program directions.

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8 / Organic Insights / Spring 2022

all trial and error, lots of different varieties… planting deeper avoided the grubs and stuff, but made it harder to get out of the ground…. it was an adventure!” She says they are now happy to share the information that was so lacking when they started. “Some people don’t like to share information, but I say we’re not a secret service. I think the only way to learn is to share.” “People notice what we are doing. The fact our property is so much greener, seeing the difference in the soil,” she says. “Now, people ring us; people come out to have a look at the farm.” Produce from the farm is sold through organic distributor Eco Farms, at the local farmers markets (Exhibition Park and Southside) and through box scheme delivery, Oooby. While Joy loves doing the farmers markets and having the connection with customers, she does find it challenging, to see people claiming to be organic, when they are not.



The last few years have been particularly testing for the couple, with drought, fires, and now far too much rain for their potato crops, which include Dutch Cream, Sebago, Pontiac, Rideau, Charlotte, Tassie Pink Eye, King Edward, Coliban and Kipfler Nicola varieties. “At the moment, we still have 95% of our crop in the ground,” says Joy. “We usually plant in November, December, but this season we couldn’t get it into the ground until February,” she says. “We’ve had 3 years of it; the rainfall has been non-stop!” The couple originally built the farm from nothing; having acquired a part of Lester’s family farm that had never been used. They lived for several years in a caravan with 4 young kids while setting up fencing, dams, and other infrastructure; only after which the house was built. “Because nothing had ever been done on the land, it was easier to be organic,” says Joy. “Going organic was almost taken up as a dare,” she says. “Coming from a small town, people were like, “Are you guys’ yuppies, or what?” “They said you can’t grow potatoes without chemicals; and I was like, I’ll show you!!” She thinks they may have even been the first organic potato growers in Australia. “There were certainly none around our area, and there are still none, although there are some conventional growers,” she says. “We said if we were going to do it, we were going to do it properly, so we read through the Standards and went with NASAA.” She says they lost a lot in those initial years. “There was no information at all. It was

Organic Insights / Spring 2022 / 9


THE REST IS HISTORY! Joy and Lester have now been married for 47 years, adding 2 more children to the original 4 – all of whom have since gained trade qualifications off farm. They do have a grandson, however, who likes to help out, particularly where there is the opportunity to drive the tractor. Joy’s advice for anyone starting out in organic? “JUST DO IT!” “I’ve never liked chemicals, and even if we weren’t farming commercially, I’d still have an organic farm,” she says.

“Now, when people say they are organic, I ask them for their certification number,” Joy says. She also spends a lot of time educating consumers about certification. The workload can be demanding for the couple, and an increasing number of fees have added to farm expenses. “It’s lots of work with just Lester and I,” says Joy. “We have had 2 backpackers from Ireland helping – and one has stayed on – to marry our son!” says Joy, going on to recount the story of the two ‘Sineads’ from Ireland (distinguished with the nicknames light shade and dark shade). “Our son only had room for one in the ute when he was going to a bushfire meeting, so he picked dark shade,” she says.


IOAS are celebrating 25 years of cultivating organic trust, providing organic and sustainable accreditation services worldwide. IOAS is a non-profit organisation dedicated to the integrity of ecolabel claims in the field of organic and sustainable agriculture, environmental management, social justice, and fair trade – supporting the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). IOAS was founded in 1997 by the International Federation of Agricultural Movements (IFOAM) to facilitate trust in a global network of accredited certification bodies. Today, the organisation provides accreditation and assessment for private schemes and regulators to over 80 certification and conformity bodies (CBs) around the world. NASAA has been proudly accredited with IOAS since inception.

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12 / Organic Insights / Spring 2022

show us your (ethical) credentials CERTIFICATION AND THE

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50’s has meant that businesses are increasingly responding to consumers concerns about ethical issues. All creating a perfect environment for consumers to meet producers on the ethical path – with a social license to operate granted by consumers, regulators, and government – or even by our own high standards as producers. Back in 2012, the Commonwealth Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation undertook a substantive assessment of the international opportunities and threats of ‘ethical foods’ – defined as embracing products that are ‘natural’, ‘Fairtrade’, free range’, ‘animal welfare friendly’, ‘environmentally responsible’ and ‘sustainably produced’. The ensuing report recognised organics as “the cornerstone of CERTIFYING ETHICS Consumers are seeking clear and unambiguous ethical food labelling. The Food Ethics Council in the UK points to the growing call for transparency in the supply chain that certification schemes can provide, saying that “comprehensive and well-regulated schemes that the international ethical food production and consumption movement.”

allow customers to understand exactly where their food comes from, the journey it’s taken, and the impact it has, are crucial in building trust and transparency in the food system.” The RIRDC report references the fact that ethical certification systems fall into three main categories: • Self-declared claims made by suppliers; • Suppliers that claim to meet third party established standards without audit; and • Suppliers that meet third party established standards with routine audit. It is the third category, and the cornerstone of organic certification, that provides the highest level of assurance for ethical consumers.

VERIFYING OUR VALUES, MEETING THE MARKET, OR CLEANING UP OUR ACT? As food miles increased and globalisation facilitated export trade, so did the movement to verify the provenance of food, as supply chains lengthened. This was certainly the case with organic certification, with early Standards developed as de facto export controls. Somewhere along the line, the consumer became increasingly aware and better informed of their food choices, spurred on by the Internet-age and with greater access to information, as well as mobility to travel to countries with differing standards of ‘welfare’. Hence, the ‘ethical’ food movement began with a greater knowledge of the environment, food waste, the treatment of livestock, poverty – and more recently, concerns over climate change. Consumers continue to evolve to what the Food Ethics Council in the UK terms a ‘citizen’ mindset. Ethical consumerism has increased as incomes have risen in affluent communities, with the UK, Western Europe, the USA and Canada continuing to dominate the ethical food market. Parallel to this, the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) movement dating back to the

“The best time to have acted on climate change was over 20 years ago and the second-best time is today.” Professor Mark Howden, Vice Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Director of the ANU’s Institute for Climate Change, Energy and Disaster Solutions - addressing the Australian Organic Conference 2022.

Organic Insights / Spring 2022 / 13

“while some studies suggest ethical consumers are likely to be well- educated, female and affluent, an increasing number of other studies report that few, or no demographic generalisations can be made.” Further reports indicate a greater price elasticity in low-income countries, and that various ethical attributes are prioritised differently by individual consumers and countries. There also appears to be two emergent consumers from the global pandemic, savers and spenders, suggesting that higher income households put money aside not spent on travel and entertainment/going out, and lower income households spent more with government support subsidies – the former having money to spend now. Deloitte reports (not surprisingly) that low-income households typically spend a higher share of their income on food items and will feel the squeeze. With all of these considerations in mind, would we dare to suggest that we might see a plateauing of demand in the short term, that doesn’t impact the long-term upward trend? For a significant consumer audience, ethics will continue to be foremost. FURTHER INFORMATION The Food Ethics Council is an advocacy group and registered charity in the UK, whose charter is to provide independent advice on the ethics of food and farming.

As NASAA Organic’s Chair, TimMarshall, has said, “We are witnessing increased community consciousness and action about climate change, and personal health. The treatment of animals, social equity and fairness are also important in consumer food choices.” “These themes drive more people to seek out the products of sustainable agri-food systems, which should be unquestionably good for organic,” he says. “Unfortunately, we also see too- easy access to information, multiple competing voices, and sometimes misinformation.” Tim highlights the confusion and potential for ‘green-washing’, with consumers being able to “choose between almost 200 sustainability- related certification schemes.” This is an issue also recognised by the UK Food Ethics Council, that suggests a need to refine the number of certification schemes to the most rigorous and well regulated. On these measures, organic certification stands tall. CAN WE AFFORD TO BE ETHICAL IN TOUGH ECONOMIC TIMES? How is choice impacted when the cost of living starts to rise? And, what trade-offs exist? There are mixed reports of the current and potential impact of rising inflation on consumer’s ‘ethical’ food choices. According to the RIRDC report (and other sources), ethical food product sales actually increased during the Global Financial Crisis of 2007-2009. Some report that organic loving consumers – especially Gen Zs and millennials - will likely keep buying sustainable food despite higher prices – and point to surveys conducted in the US and abroad that suggest some consumers continue to prioritise susta inable goods.

Marcus Spiske / Unsplash

Other studies indicate that price and taste come first in purchasing trade-offs. The Consumer Dilemma finds that the cost-of-living crisis is forcing people to “choose between luxuries and survival” and an article in the Guardian UK, urges shoppers to continue to buy Fairtrade products, “amidst fears of a race to the bottom, as struggling Britons look for ways to save money.” Price has always been the biggest obstacle to widespread purchase of sustainable foods, even pre current inflationary times, and an article by Food Navigator explains well, this sustainability vs affordability dilemma. Consumer attitudes have certainly changed, but whether this promotes behaviour is unclear. The 2012 RIRDC report identified that the demographic characteristics of ethical consumers is not straightforward, citing that

if you build up the soil with organic material, the plants will do just fine. John Harrison

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14 / Organic Insights / Spring 2022

audit with one of the program’s independent auditing bodies. Once the grower has completed their audit, they are assigned a certification cycle and become Fair Farms Certified. “We believe that the Fair Farms program is a relevant and complementary addition for certified organic growers in Australia,” National Program Manager, Sachin Ayachit said. “At the heart of a lot of farm practices now is sustainability and organic growers lead the way when it comes to sustainability.” “Sustainability has traditionally been seen as encompassing ethical practices for the environment, but has since developed to take into consideration sustainable and ethical practices for people.” “That’s why becoming Fair Farms Certified is so important – it’s about demonstrating to the community and yourself that you place your people first.” The program is supported by Fresh Markets Australia, National Farmers Federation, Horticulture Council and AUSVEG. The program is also accepted by Woolworths, Coles, ALDI and Metcash. To celebrate the program’s success, a conference focused on Workplace Relations in the Horticulture Industry will take place at Opal Cove Resort located at Coffs Harbour on the 14th of October 2022, featuring industry experts, growers and a special keynote speaker. The conference is not to be missed! Further Information visit

fair farms - the australian choice for horticulture organic growers

The program, which was developed in consultation with growers, unions, government bodies, and retailers, was officially launched in 2019 by horticulture peak industry body Growcom, with seed money from the Fair Work Ombudsman. The program is currently funded by the Federal Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and now has more than 350 grower members - 100 of whom are Fair Farms Certified Members. Fair Farms Certified Member and tomato growers Sunripe joined Fair Farms and said they saw it as a value-add to their business – forming part of their commitment to continue to improve and find better and new ways to do things on farm. “We are extremely focused on technology and efficiency, which has led to various state of the art equipment being implemented, in both our packing facility and our farms – some the first of its kind,” Administrative Director Samara De Paoli said. “We are doing what’s necessary to future-proof our business and part of that is moving towards a more skilled workforce – and Fair Farms is part of that.” To become Fair Farms Certified, a grower simply needs to read the Fair Farms Standard, which is freely available on the website. They then register online and pay the $150 registration fee, complete an Online Self-Assessment (OSA) and any recommended training identified through the OSA. Once training has been

NASAA ORGANIC AND NCO HAVE CONTINUED TO DEVELOP RELATIONSHIPS WITH WELL-REGARDED, AND COMPLEMENTARY CERTIFICATION SCHEMES, THAT PROVIDE ADDITIONAL VERIFICATION OF THE ‘ETHICAL’ PRACTICES OF OUR OPERATORS, AND SUPPORT TRADING OPPORTUNITIES. Here we outline voluntary best- practice schemes (and our involvement) that broaden the ethical ‘paradigm’. Fair Farms is an industry developed national training and certification initiative that is cultivating fair and responsible employment practices in Australian horticulture. The program provides support and training to farm businesses and a pathway to independent third-party audit, and certification. The need for such a program like Fair Farms was identified after the Fair Work Ombudsman published the 2018 Harvest Trail Enquiry Report. The report highlighted widespread workplace non- compliance within the horticulture and viticulture industry.

Left to right_Growcom Chair Belinda Frentz_Minister Murray Watt_National ProgramManager Sachin Ayachit_Growcom Policy Manager Richard Shannons

completed – which can be accomplished through the

program’s online learning platform, a grower just needs to register to

Organic Insights / Spring 2022 / 15


Freshcare is an Australian non-profit organisation that provides internationally recognised assurance standards for the fresh produce and wine grape industries. NASAA Certified Organic (NCO) is accredited as one of seven Freshcare approved Certification Bodies, providing certification services under the following Freshcare Standards:

FRESHCARE CERTIFICATION – FOOD SAFETY AND QUALITY NCO is accredited to deliver Freshcare Food Safety Audits. Freshcare Standards are one of three food safety schemes recognised under the Harmonised Australian Retailer Produce Scheme (HARPS) introduced in 2016 to streamline the (then) varying food safety requirements of major retailers. HARPS assisted in lowering the cost for producers who may have previously been subject to multiple audits under different schemes. The Standards are aligned with the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), an international benchmark model for best practice in food safety. They are designed to provide a practical, cost effective and industry focused food safety program for all types of grower businesses. NCO is accredited under Freshcare’s: • Food Safety & Quality Standard Edition 4.1 and 4.2 for On Farm. • Food Safety & Quality-Supply Chain Standard Edition 1 for Grower, Packer and Supply Chains.

FRESHCARE CERTIFICATION FOR THE WINE INDUSTRY NCO is also an accredited auditor under the Freshcare Sustainability Standards for Viticulture (AWISSP- VITI) and Winemaking (AWISSP-WIN1). Released in 2020, Freshcare sustainability standards provide the underpinning certification pathway for viticulturalists and wineries under the Sustainable Winegrowing Australia (SWA) program, managed by the Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI). Certification to the Freshcare sustainability standards, supports viticulture growers and winemakers to demonstrate and improve the sustainability of their businesses. Certification is achieved through third-party audits every three years, and businesses are required to attend initial training outlining the processes and plans required to pass an audit. For further information, visit membership/the-certification- process or to arrange an audit, contact NCO direct on (08) 7231 7700.

FRESHCARE ENVIRONMENTAL CODE OF PRACTICE The Freshcare Environmental Code of Practice (ENV3) is an industry led program that verifies that agri-businesses follow an industry-recognised environmental adherence to two elements around management and environment, each of which describes the outcomes required and practices needed to ensure compliance. For certified organic farmers, this simply means additional recognition for the practices that are in place and audits can take place at the same time as organic inspections. assurance program on-farm. The Code of Practice requires




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16 / Organic Insights / Spring 2022

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Despite there being a multitude of voluntary ‘sustainability’ certifications, organic and Fairtrade are amongst the most highly recognised worldwide and are the only standards spanning multi-commodities. There is a perception among some consumers that organic and Fairtrade are interchangeable. While some aspects are similar in intent, the scope of standards differ, with organic certification being focused on agricultural inputs, and Fairtrade focused on a systems approach to ‘economic, environmental and social responsibility’. The two Standards are highly complementary in nature, however. Since 2019, NASAA Certified Organic (NCO) has been working with Fairtrade ANZ’s PNG Team to provide technical certification expertise on a project designed to support small-scale producer organisations and exporters who are part of a dual-certified grower group. The relationship follows and extends upon NCO’s training of grower collectives in Tonga and PNG in 2019. NCO’s Carolin Möller, Fairtrade ANZ Climate change advisor Astra Rushton-Allan and PNG Team Leader Gabriel Iso co-designed and implemented a project to develop a series of technical support materials for small scale producer organisations and traders with dual certification. This has involved supporting Fairtrade ANZ’s development of information sheets, technical videos and Q&A material. The team from NCO and Fairtrade ANZ also spent time in PNG during May to provide technical advice to small scale producer organisations and traders on site, assisting the collective certification of groups under organic and Fairtrade. This will be an ongoing collaboration of NCO with Fairtrade ANZ; supporting an initial 800 coffee farmers to become certified organic and the potential to reach out to many more groups over time. FURTHER INFORMATION Here’s just a taste of the simple explanatory videos created as part of the Fairtrade project with NCO technical input: Differences between organic and fairtrade

Purpose of Fair Trade

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How can organic farmers take advantage of the growing carbon and environmental credits markets? A market with value estimates at between $11 billion and $24 billion by 2030, and as some sources suggest, rising to $48 billion and upwards by 2050 (almost half that of the NFF’s target gross receipts in agriculture of 100 Billion by the same date).

Given the limitations on the size of the farm, cost of verification, the ‘additionality’ criteria, and the long term 25-year contracts with the ERF program, the Eco-Credits™ scheme provides a way to capture value, while retaining the integrity of carbon drawdown for the benefit of the land and producer. The value of increases in soil carbon and biodiversity derives direct co-benefits for each producer, financially and within their own production system as a dividend for society as a whole. “Ultimately, we want to see organic and biodynamic farmers gaining the recognition they deserve and deriving intrinsic value from their sustainable land management systems developed over the last 90-100 years.” THE ECO-CREDITS™ SCHEME PROVIDES THE ABILITY FOR FARMERS TO VALIDATE AND SELL CARBON CREDITS DIRECTLY TO THE MARKET, AND EACH BUSINESS THAT PURCHASES AN ECO- CREDITS™ RECEIVES A REPORT OF VERIFIED OUTCOMES ON EACH FARM.

Carolyn says they were fortunate to have some innovative farmers – in Stephen Whitsed and David McFall - willing to take part in the Eco-Credits™ pilot trial, who were already well engaged with increasing their soil carbon. They have both now completed their first-year validation of credits, and the positive response has meant a further 20 farmers are able to commence this year. “Farmers might simply want to understand their own footprint, increase the carbon potential in their own supply chain, or opt to sell to the market,” she says. Some farmers who have been participants in the ORICoop bushfire recovery programs have registered to measure improvements as they work to rebuild their farms, “so they can derive value and increase their resilience from the process,” Carolyn says. There is still a lot of work to do, she acknowledges “Our intention is to go slowly, almost organically, to understand what the market wants, and ensure legitimacy of the program and our producers,” she says.

Eco-Credits™ is a nationwide carbon credit scheme that moves away from the traditional broker model to empower organic and biodynamic farmers to be in control and directly rewarded for good environmental stewardship by cooperatively owning the process. Regenerative Investment Cooperative (ORICoop), has been designed to address limitations of the current Federal Government ERF model, and unlock opportunities for the smaller family, to medium sized, organic regenerative farmer. “There is concern about the ethics of the carbon trading market today, and lack of consistency in application as seen through the media,” says ORICoop Executive Officer, Carolyn Suggate, who has had a long-standing interest in the carbon market. “The Federal Government program typically excludes the family-sized farmer, and even up to the larger, organic and biodynamic producers,” she says. The Eco-Credits™ scheme, created by the Organic and

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Carolyn says they underestimated the complexity and capability of how to ascertain the farm footprint for biological farming systems in different production systems and climatic zones. “Especially, having the right tool for the footprint when there are a range of tools available to specific sectors – Dairy, Grain, Tree Crops etc, and many varying protocols that don’t always reward biological production systems.” “This occurs as they neglect to reconcile the sequestration side of the carbon accounting ledger by concentrating wholly on emissions as the dominant paradigm of agriculture.” “There is very little coordination across industries and sectors, and it’s something that has a massive value for the broader agriculture industry,” according to Carolyn, noting that at any one point she may need to access different calculators according to the diversity of farm and production systems involved in organic agriculture. “We are talking to investors to develop a universal tool to provide consistency in measurement and validation of biological farming systems, especially as organic stretches across all sectors” she says. “We need the technology to support producers to record this data, however, we need to get it right, and any technology development needs to be usable by the farmer in the field, sometimes without internet capability.” technology applications in the field to validate the soil tests and production zones and the capacity for carbon drawdown calculation via the verified Eco-Credits™ calculation process. This includes a peer reviewed process, or independent verification as required by each producer and their individual market. ORICoop has layered the Eco-Credits™ in addition to the existing National Organic Standards (a minimum entry point for the Eco-Credits™). Carolyn believes that the verification process could fit in with organic certification, although not all requirements for carbon measurement and validation would necessarily be covered to the extent required by the carbon market. Currently, the method of verification includes using dedicated land maps,

“Certifiers should be verifying that soil organic carbon is increasing over time as part of the National Organic Standard, and this should be checked and validated in line with carbon reporting,” she says. “This is fundamental to good organic and regenerative land management, and if producers are not increasing their soil carbon over time they are in the wrong business.” “Some certifiers do check (validate) soil health, but others check just for chemical residues, and not soil health or quality.” The design of the Eco-Credits™ program is to encourage continuous improvement over time, something that all farmers should strive for, according to Carolyn. However, this can be a double-edged sword for farmers who may have been practicing organic and regenerative methods for some time and reached a plateau

in their soil carbon or biodiversity area. “Our vision is to provide something that recognises farmers contributions retrospectively eventually,” says Carolyn, pointing to the fact that, under the current ERF system, landholders can clear forested areas and be rewarded for replanting – or even worse, get paid for not deforesting - whereas capturing the historical contributions of biological systems is not currently considered in the existing carbon markets. This is despite significant and valuable satellite data that verifies these outcomes frommany pioneering organic farmers. “ORICoop is committed to ensuring our producers strengthen their business resilience, increase carbon draw-down, improve their on-farm farm sustainability, and natural capital over time,” says Carolyn.

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“The Eco-Credits™ seeks to combine good land management, with the latest technology, and provide the capital that producers need, in the urgent transition to more sustainable and regenerative food and farming systems.” “If we can achieve that, and organic businesses within the supply chain equally share this responsibility, the organic sector has the opportunity to be a leader in sustainability, traceability and food integrity.” “The individual stories of continued progress by farmers can be accessed by QR technology that further informs and educates consumers on how organic and regenerative farming is addressing climate change and biodiversity conservation.” WITH A MEMBERSHIP BASE OF 200+ ORGANIC AND BIODYNAMIC FARMERS AUSTRALIA WIDE, AND INDUSTRY STAKEHOLDERS, ORICOOP EXISTS TO SUPPORT INVESTMENT INTO LAND, WATER AND SUPPLY CHAINS, IMPROVING MARKET ACCESS AND MORE TRANSPARENT SUPPLY CHAINS ACROSS THE ORGANIC AND BIODYNAMIC FARMING AND FOOD SECTORS.

For further information or to register for Eco-Credit™, visit credit/ Find out how Paris Creek Farm is delivering a carbon neutral product by measuring and offsetting emissions in their own supply chain

KarstenWurt / Unsplash

“Australia needs to restore ecosystem function, build resilient landscapes, and equitably distribute environmental, economic, social, and cultural benefits.”

Commonwealth State of the Environment Report 2021

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