Farming Certification

Aquaculture, Bee Keeping, Livestock, Cottage industry, Horticulture, Cropping, Biodynamic, Grower Group, Landless Production (Mushroom and Sprouts), Nursery Production, Silviculture, Viticulture, Wild harvest

 


Becoming certified as a producer is dependent on the development and maintenance of a whole system approach, a process which usually takes three years. Organic production systems are guided by the following principles and outcomes:
  • Production of naturally safe, high quality, nutritionally vital foods;
  • Optimal production output, with rational and minimised use of inputs;
  • Use of recycling and biological cycles within the farming system;
  • Biodiversity protection and enhancement within the farm and surrounding areas;
  • Regeneration of lands and soils and best environmental practice of farming activities.

Stage 1: precertification

“Precertified” products produced during the first year of converting to organic cannot bear reference to being certified organic or use a certification body’s logo. When a farmer decides to switch to organic methods there is a period of at least two years when the land and the land management undergoes a transition to organic production. After a minimum 12 month period in pre-certification, growers receive another full-scale audit (audits occur at least annually), at which time producers may achieve “In Conversion” level certification. This means that you need to apply for certification as soon as you are sure you wish to proceed. Delaying this means delays with ultimate certification. Landless systems (eg mushrooms, aquaculture etc) require two audits through an entire production cycle only prior to certification.

Stage 2: in conversion (IC)

IC requires a minimum of 12 months verified conformance with the Standard (in the past referred to as “B” grade). “In Conversion” products are those on their way to becoming fully certified organic. During this conversion period all crops are referred to as “In Conversion” and carry a stippled BUD logo. When Australian consumers puchase In Conversion product for a premium, they are recognising the additional work and costs involved in the conversion and it helps our farmers go fully organic. You may trade on the organic market as in conversion to organic.

Stage 3: certified organic (A)

Certified organic status requires a minimum prior period of three years of verified conformance with the Standard (in the past referred to as “A” grade). You may trade on the organic market as certified organic.

Livestock

Going into organic livestock production requires careful consideration of different aspects of the farm business. By considering the changes needed you can manage a smooth transition. On Chapter 5 of the Australian Certified Organic Standard you will find all the specific requirements for Organic Livestock certification.
There are many farm businesses in Australia that successfully raise organic livestock. Products on the market include meat and wool as well as dairy products. Organic livestock production can be found in most of the same regions as conventionally managed livestock, with the majority of production taking place in the rangelands. In all cases successful conversion to organic production requires a clear farm and family goal to go organic. It also requires thinking through the management challenges that your climate and environment may bring.
Organic livestock production has a lot in common with good conventional practices. Choosing good breeding stock, looking after your country for the long term (no overstocking, caring for groundcover and soil), good nutrition, whole farm planning and running your business with good bookkeeping, business and financial planning.

Wild harvest

The production and harvesting of wild or naturally occurring foods and fibers is included in chapter 7.5 under the Australian Certified Organic Standard. Whilst Wild Harvest may not include the same pro-active management measures seen in organic farming, relevant requirements outlined in the standard will apply.
Production and harvesting is not to impact negatively on the habitat and neighboring species.
Section 6 of ACOS (Processing/ Preparation) also applies to the above operations. All products must be stored and processed in certified facilities.

Growers Groups

Villages, special project areas and plantations such as tea, coffee, bananas, etc are allowed as a grouping to be certified where there is an umbrella company or management group which undertakes to maintain certification. The Group shall be formed around one main product (eg coffee, herbs) to be certified as a group and be constituted of small land holders only. Large farming units, processing units and traders require
individual certification and shall not be certified as part of the group while group members shall be in geographic proximity.
Produce must be sold under the group name – as part of a coordinated marketing strategy (ie individual farmers in the scheme may not sell certified product independently) and there shall be an Internal Control System (ICS) in operation.
More information can be found on chapter 7 of the Australian Certified Organic Standard.

What is the difference between organic and biodynamic?

Biodynamic farming is an enhanced or alternative method of organic farming. Biodynamic utilises traditional farming techniques and a prescribed list of biological or natural “preparations”, whilst acknowledging and working with universal or cosmic forces that are at play in the farming environment. Many organic farmers practice biodynamic methods and the BFA’s certification program Australian Certified Organic covers both Biodynamic (or BD) certification as well as organic certification.
Biodynamic farming is regulated under the same standard in Australia as organic. Most countries have regulations for organic that cover both approaches and in this article when we talk organic we are also talking biodynamic.
The Biodynamic movement is typified by Rudolph Steiner who is viewed as the Grandfather of Biodynamics. Steiner outlined an entire philosophy of life, which included prescriptions for the way in which agriculture needed to be performed to ensure that natural life forces were evident in all foods produced. He warned that a lack of focus on cosmic influences and the use of natural approaches to farming and food production would have dire consequences for human society.
The key issue with biodynamics is the proper application of “preparations” which include 500 and 501 as well as a range of compost preparations that assist in the composting process and enable biodynamic processes to work at the soil level within composts.
The “preps” as they are called include the following: 500 is produced using BD cow manure that is packed into cow horns and buried through the winter months (when natural forces are drawing energies into the ground). In Spring they are uncovered and to use this prep it is carefully and purposefully stirred with a machine that creates vortexes which further assists in energising the solution. This is then sprayed out on the farm at levels that are homeopathic in their application.
501 is a silica product aimed at assisting light entering the farming system. Some BD farms need more and some less of this depending on their own natural environment. The other preps are compost preps and include ingredients from natural sources to aid in the compost process and to further enhance the biodynamic processes on farm.

 

Think now, not later, about meeting international standards requirements
Some international certifications required for export can take a similar timeframe to achieve e.g. 3 years, therefore think now, not later, about which markets you may want to supply and ask the ACO office about what additional requirements there may be in order to start the process at the same time as your ACO certification.