Organic head appointed to ACCC

Australian Organic has announced CEO Niki Ford has been appointed to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) Agriculture Consultative Committee (AgCC) and will also join the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) Diversity in Agriculture Leadership Program 2020.

As part of the ACCC, the AgCC provides advice and information on issues affecting the agriculture sector. Members are drawn from a range of backgrounds and industries within the agriculture sector including peak bodies, industry associations, and industry advisors. Members typically hold office for a period of two years.

As representative for Australian Organic, Ford will join the AgCC’s current membership committee of 22 other key industry organisations including WoolProducers Australia, Grain Trade Australia, and the Australian Food and Grocery Council.

Members provide input on issues and processes affecting the agriculture sector that fall within the scope of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010; emerging issues or market developments of concern to the agriculture sector; information dissemination strategies and appropriate networks available to enhance communication with the agriculture sector, and other issues as requested by the ACCC.

“To be invited to join the AgCC is a huge honour and is exciting for Australian Organic to now have a seat at the table with representatives from other top industry bodies,” said Ford. “This year we will be fighting for domestic regulation to be enforced for the organic industry in Australia so being part of the committee will enable us to discuss this, along with other issues, in greater depth.”

Ford will also commence with the NFF’s Diversity in Agriculture Leadership Program 2020. Selected from more than 80 applicants, Ms Ford is one of 12 outstanding women who will be mentored over the course of a five-month one-on-one program working with some of Australia’s most experienced leaders. Now in its third year, the mentors will assist the selected applicants in defining and planning their leadership aspirations.

The 2020 mentee group hails from across the nation and boasts a broad range of expertise from science; research and development; farm health and safety; education; and farm business management.

“As the CEO of Australian Organic, the peak body for the organic industry, Niki has a passion and a vision for the future of Australian agriculture, and we’re delighted to have her join this year’s program.” NFF President Fiona Simson said.

Simson added the program is helping to make serious inroads towards this. “Graduates of the 2018 and 2019 programs have gone on to assume federal and state government-based board roles and to be high-profile female advocates and leaders of our sector.”

Organics awareness month launched in September

Australia’s largest organic awareness campaign will be taking place once more throughout September during Australian Organic Awareness Month (AOAM). Held each Spring, the organic industry’s leading body – Australian Organic – will be promoting the importance of certified organics for both consumer well-being and the environment.

The campaign aims to educate and assist Australians everywhere on the benefits of choosing organic and reassure them that their products are certified – in other words truly organic. Throughout the month, the campaign will share stories about some of Australia’s best and most unique certified organic producers, from a wide range of categories including food, cosmetics, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, and packaged foods, kicking off with an event in Sydney, on Tuesday, 3 September at La Porte event space in Rosebery.

“The certified organic industry is diverse with new and interesting products hitting the markets continuously,” said Australian Organic CEO Niki Ford. “The awareness campaign is designed to help promote all certified organic products in store and online by educating consumers on why they should always look for a certification mark such as Australian Organic’s distinctive Bud logo when choosing to buy organic products. Point of sale material and online digital artwork is available for all outlets, individuals and organisations who want to share the message.”

READ MORE: Organic farm to expand with $250,000 grant

The latest Australian Organic Market Report for 2019 revealed that Australian demand for certified organic products is now skyrocketing with $1.93 billion dollars generated in domestic sales for 2018. The figure is up $256 million from domestic sales of $1.67 billion for 2017 with the total Australian organic industry now worth $2.6 billion and growing year on year.

The overall number of households saying they have purchased at least one organic product in 2018 lifted to 65 per cent from the previous year. With there being some confusion in recent times about what exactly constitutes an organic product, reassurance is of paramount importance to consumers with more than half of organic buyers (55 per cent) saying that they now look for a certification logo on labels to check if products are organic.

Health and environmental factors have become increasingly important to consumers with many Australians thinking more carefully about what they are consuming and using on their skin. Certified organic standards currently prohibit the use of harmful synthetic agricultural chemicals such as pesticides, fungicides and herbicides.

“With more and more consumers demanding transparency when it comes to what they are putting in and, on their bodies, certified organic products offer consumers the surety each ingredient has been rigorously audited and is what it says it is,” said Ms Ford. “Always look for a certification logo to ensure you’re getting what you pay for – no one likes being fooled at the register.”

Here’s why organic produce and products are making such an impact nationally and globally:

10 important things about certified organic products

 

  • Certified organic products are no longer considered to be expensive
    Price is no longer a reason not to buy organic and this is reflected in strong sales. Larger retailers have their own certified organic home-brands which offer a range of products at reasonable prices. Fresh produce can be found at your local organic or farmers’ markets, cutting out the middleman and therefore reducing the costs. You can also find a range of deals online – from specialised online retailers, subscription box delivery services to organic wholesalers.
  • You can get almost anything certified organic.
    Australian Organic’s Bud logo is now found on over 32,000 products in Australia meaning there’s pretty much an organic option available for most things in addition to food and beverages. From bed linen to personal products, cosmetics, cleaning products and clothing to pet food – there are so many certified organic products available. You can even descale your coffee machine organically.
  • Organic produce is said to be better for you
    Recent research supports the claim that organic produce is better for you. A study published in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology found that organic apples are more beneficial for your health than those grown in non-organic environments, as they contain a wider variety and larger numbers of beneficial bacteria – including the probiotic lactobacilli. One of the best aspects of certified organic produce is that it’s grown without the use of synthetic chemicals, pesticides, hormones and antibiotics. Each time you consume something, ask yourself whether you really want to be ingesting these things into your body – remember, you are what you eat!
  • Organic products adhere to strict standards
    Certified Organic products go through a rigorous certification process – from sourcing ingredients, to manufacture and processing, all the way through to getting into stores. To trust a product is truly organic, always look for a certification mark such as the Australian Organic ‘bud’ logo.
  • The term ‘organic’ isn’t regulated in Australia
    Australia is one of the few remaining countries in the modern world that does not regulate the use of the term ‘organic’. This means that anyone can label a product ‘organic’ even if it contains just two per cent of organic ingredients. This misleading labelling leads to distrust and confusion, which is why many shoppers look for certification marks on their organic products to ensure they are truly organic.
  • Organic producers help to create a better environment
    As part of certification standards, certified organic producers adhere to strict rules when it comes to environmental and sustainable practices. From the sustainable sourcing of ingredients, to ruling out harmful synthetic chemicals and pesticides, using and promoting environmentally friendly practices, to maintaining healthier soil and water systems, certified organic products promote a better future for the planet which also helps to promote and protect local wildlife. For instance, certified organic carrots are hand-weeded so there’s no synthetic chemical overspray from weed spraying.
  • Aussie producers use innovative methods
    As some certified organic fruits and veggies are harder to grow than others and attract more pests and diseases certified organic farmers have a diverse array of tools to combat these challenges such as crop rotation, and the attraction of natural bug defenses. Did you know lady bugs can eat up to 50 aphids in a day? Ducks and geese are also commonly used in certified organic vineyards to help control slugs, snails and pests, and their manure helps to fertilise the grape vines (used by Angove Family Winemakers on their estate in South Australia).
  • They care about water resources
    The ACOS (Australian Certified Organic Standard) contains requirements for water efficiency and ecology, ensuring any water leaving the farm is, at minimum, the same quality as first applied; so as to not create environmental pollution or degradation of surrounding areas.
  • The organic industry gives animals a better quality of life
    Animals that are part of the certified organic food chain have a greater quality of life. Livestock must be free-range, free to roam in uncrowded pastures, fed a certified organic diet free from synthetic chemicals and pesticides, raised with zero added hormones, treated with the highest standard of welfare and encouraged to explore their natural behaviours. For instance, certified organic chickens enjoy cage-free, truly free-range lives, where they can scratch and forage in the grass and fields like nature intended. Certified organic bees are also required to have a 5km pollution-free radius around their hive. This ensures that there is no contamination of the honey.
  • By supporting organic you’re supporting Australian farmers
    Certified organic products support the hardworking Australian farmers and workers that produce them. By buying locally and in-season, you’re not only reducing your own carbon footprint, but are also promoting and supporting our economy. Organic certification standards also contain policies regarding fair work and fair trade, including the promotion of socioeconomic benefits and ethical trade programs. When you choose to buy certified organic, you are choosing fair working rights for everyone involved in the production chain.

 

Australian Organic joins National Farmers’ Federation

Not-for-profit industry body, Australian Organic, is now a member of the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF), the national peak organisation representing farmers and agriculture across Australia.

With Australia’s political, social and natural landscapes constantly changing, the NFF, one of Australia’s foremost and respected advocacy organisations, is committed to ensuring modern farming is not only viable and sustainable but continues its vital and growing contribution to the nation.

“We are excited to become an associate member of the National Farmers Federation and are looking forward to representing the broader organic industry and becoming more involved with the NFF over the coming years,” said Australian Organic general manager Niki Ford.

Ford said to make the most of the opportunities before it, the organic sector needed a strong voice in Canberra. “Australian Organic’s membership of NFF will ensure our sector’s interests are drawn to the attention of our federal politicians and our needs considered in government decisions.”

The 2018 Market Report, compiled by Australian Organic, reveals that currently the area of land under certified organic management in Australia is 35million hectares – more than half of all certified land area on the earth. There are an estimated 1,998 certified organic primary producers in Australia including farmers, graziers, apiarists and wild harvesters.

Vegetable production dominates in the fruit, vegetable and nut sector, with three quarters of the sector value, beef dominates in the meat sector with 87 per cent of value and lamb comprises the bulk of the remaining 13% in addition to organic pork, goat and aquaculture. Poultry products are fairly evenly weighted between eggs and poultry meat in terms of value.

Australian Organic Limited joins NFF’s 30-strong member group, who have a shared vision for agriculture to be a $100 billion industry by 2030, up from today’s $60 billion. NFF President Fiona Simson said the issues organic farmers faced were common to many farmers and it made sense for their interests to be well represented in NFF’s policy and advocacy efforts.

“As Australian farming’s peak representative body, it is our role to represent all farmers,” she said. “Having Australia Organic join the NFF, means we can get a more informed understanding of the challenges and opportunities before organic farmers and, as a result, be better able to advocate in the interests of all farmers.”

Since its inception in 1979, the NFF has earned a reputation as a leader in the identification, development and achievement of policy outcomes – championing issues affecting farmers and dedicated to the advancement of agriculture.

The NFF is dedicated to proactively generating greater understanding and better-informed awareness of farming’s modern role, contribution and value to the entire community.

One of the keys to the NFF’s success has been its commitment to presenting innovative and forward-looking solutions to the issues affecting agriculture, striving to meet current and emerging challenges, and advancing Australia’s vital agricultural production base.

Australian Organic (formerly Biological Farmers of Australia or BFA) has always been a major force in ensuring that organic standards in Australia remain in the hands of the supply chain. The BFA moved on to develop an organic certification program to independently verify that farmers and processors were producing in accord with those standards. The organisation’s Australian Certified Organic Bud logo is the oldest organic certification mark in the country which ensures integrity of organic products for consumers.

 

Australian Organic announces new appointments

Australian Organic, the  member-based, non-profit industry body responsible for ensuring organic standards in Australia are upheld, has announced three new appointments. Former corporate lawyer, Bernadette Favis, and organic wholefoods expert, Leo Watling, have both joined the Board of Directors, while Niki Ford, founder of consultancy Naturalis Advisory, has been appointed new general manager.

Watling, founder of retailer Apples and Sage, was voted in by Australian Organic members at the annual general meeting last November. The appointment of Favis, who has experience in governance, and was the first board appointed director to join, was a result of recent changes to the AOL constitution, aiming to increase the size of the Board and enable the appointments to fill any skills gaps. Ford was appointed by the Board on December 18 as Australian Organic’s new general manager after a six-month period of consulting on key strategic marketing projects.

“We are very pleased to welcome the skills diversities and industry experience of these talented individuals to the Board and management team,” says acting chairman of Australian Organic, Martin Meek. “Bernadette’s legal background and entrepreneurial experience will be invaluable to Australian Organic moving forward. Her knowledge and drive, combined with Leo and Niki’s strong commercial acumen, and vast retail knowledge, will see Australian Organic really hit its stride this year.”

Favis was a practicing corporate lawyer prior to starting Cocolife, a health food company which specialises in organic kitchen oils. She previously won the coveted ‘Young Organic Leader’ award at The Australian Organic Annual Awards for Excellence in 2016 and has been an advocate for the organic industry for many years having changed careers in support of her passion for organics.

“I’m really pleased to be able to share my skills as a director to help shape Australia’s organic industry,” she said. “The industry is growing year on year. So I’m looking forward to representing our members and working with stakeholders to ensure the necessary regulatory framework is in place to protect the integrity and long-term sustainability of the industry.”

Watling says he was delighted to be voted into his new director position by Australian Organic members adding, “With years of retail experience and a passion for organic food, I look forward to the contribution that I can make to the growth of the certified organic industry in Australia.”

At the AGM members also called on the board to ensure Australian Organic has the export, retail, legal and financial skills required to meet the rapid growth in the industry while continuing to support its members long term.

Ford said the certified organic industry is rapidly growing into a sustainable and profitable opportunity for farmers, businesses and investors. “It’s important to meet the needs of our members while also ensuring the engagement of the broader industry,” she said. “Our program this year is committed to delivering information rich and industry relevant initiatives that support the growth and development of our industry both domestically and internationally.”

The 2018 Market Report compiled by Australian Organic reveals that the nation’s organic industry is worth a massive $2.4billion. The total value of exports is now in excess of $700 million per annum with exports growing more than 15 per cent annually (compound growth rate).

Currently, the area of land under certified organic management in Australia is 35 million hectares – more than half of all certified land area on the earth.