- The person pays a once-off joining fee ($50)
- The person has applied for 5 organic shares at $10 per share
- The person is able to use or contribute to the services of the co-operative
- Is supportive of the overall mission of ORICoop
The Organic Development Group (ODG) consists of eleven organisations including certification, consumer, investment, and advocacy associations, who have over the past seven months joined together for the specific purpose of achieving regulatory reform in the Australian domestic market. The ODG has met three times in person, once virtually and has convened two separate working groups to facilitate foundational work streams such as research and review of potential pathways towards the shared goal of domestic regulation. The ODG is a voluntary group with representation by 11 industry groups. The Secretariat is resourced by Australian Organic Llimited, NASAA Organic and Organic Industries Australia (OIA) and funded by Australian Organic limited and NASAA Organic.
The group’s success was witnessed by the Australian Government at the inaugural Parliamentary Friends of Organic in Canberra during Organic Awareness Month. The Parliamentary Friends group was founded by Dan Repacholi, Member for Hunter, and Aaron Violi, Member for Casey. During the event Minister for Agriculture Senator Murray Watt attended and spoke of the importance of our industry and bipartisan support was demonstrated by the inclusion of Shadow Minister for Agriculture and Leader of the National Party David Littleproud in the final formalities.
ODG representatives are standing shoulder to shoulder, calling for reform and working as a united front. It is a credit to the representatives and the Secretariat how much has been achieved in such a short period of time. Well done to the ODG representatives for putting the industry’s future first and making this critical progress.
Photo: Greg Paynter
Members of Parliament from across the political spectrum have joined international dignitaries and an array of the country’s top certified organic producers for a historic event at Parliament House to mark the formation of the Parliamentary Friends of Australia’s Organic Industry (PFAOI)
Recognising the certified organic industry’s development into a major export earner and economic driver that contributes $851m directly into the domestic economy, the barbecue lunch featured a range of certified organic produce and hosted the newly formed Organic Development Group (ODG).
The ODG brings together all of Australia’s certification bodies and key industry groups into one forum and presents a united voice on issues such as the need for domestic regulation of the word “organic” for clarity to consumers.
Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Murray Watt, addressed the event and acknowledged the organic industry’s position as a major contributor to Australia’s image abroad as a producer of clean, green and high-quality produce and products.
“This industry is a core part of our agriculture sector,” Minister Watt said.
“As a government we’ve been particularly keen to focus on how we can be supporting the organics sector with its export efforts.”
“I know there was a very productive meeting held earlier today between representatives of the organics industry with the relevant departments to talk through some of the new and emerging export opportunities that we’ve been able to negotiate for our good organic products as well.”
PFAOI Co-chair, Aaron Violi MP, said establishing the group was an important step in elevating the industry.
“I used to work in the industry selling organic food and I’ve seen firsthand how the industry has grown over the last few decades and it’s an amazing industry that has big potential,” Mr Violi said.
“It’s already delivering a lot and there are things we need to do in this house to make sure that we can allow it to continue to grow.”
Australian Organic Limited (AOL) hosted the function which was attended by more than 200 people including Minister for Trade and Tourism Don Farrell, Leader of the Nationals David Littleproud, MPs, Senators, the Swedish Ambassador, and representatives from the New Zealand High Commission, and the United States and French embassies.
AOL Chief Executive Officer, Niki Ford said it was timely recognition for producers.
“Today is an important day for us as an industry,” Ms Ford said.
“September is traditionally Australian Organic Awareness Month, so it is great for us to be talking about the real reason you should be choosing certified organic products.”
“Organic is regenerative, organic is sustainable and organic production systems positively contribute to climate resilience and biodiversity.”
“Every organic operator who is certified has to go through a rigorous audit to substantiate their claims which underpins the importance of looking for certification marks.”
“But without domestic regulation you can have as little as one ingredient and still claim organic on your packaging in Australia. Research has shown about one-third of consumers have reported being misled by deceptive packaging so truth in labelling is an important issue for our industry.”
ORICoop Director Greg Paynter reflected on the event
“Whilst aware of the political issues of being around 3% of the agriculture production in Australia, it was pleasing to see the government and its agencies willing to listen to the concerns we face, but also to understand the benefit we can proactively assist with in the wider agriculture sector, in addressing externalities, traceability, profitability and biodiversity conservation (noting the dedicated biodiversity set aside system of the organic standard requirements to 10% of the land area of Australia’s Nation Park estate). ORICoop directors were able to talk to attendees from Government members and Department’s and fellow industry members in various forums regarding supply chain constraints and market opportunities both in domestic and export environments. Good contacts were made that are likely to benefit across the organic industry.”
ORICoop Director, Sandra Fishwick added her inspiration
“It’s important to recognise the value of Organic, green, clean soil and high quality foods while nurturing your health and building a future beyond the present”.
ORICoop Director, Carolyn Suggate outlined the following after the day.
“‘The future of our farming and environmental systems depends on the world transitioning to a better version of agriculture. The organic sector can provide much of this knowledge and demonstrates the increasing appetite from consumers for more integrity, provenance and trust in the food they desire. ORICoop is at the forefront of growing these markets and increasing the opportunity for organic growers across Australia. We are excited at the support shown by the Government and their interest to further the pathway for domestic regulation and integrity in the Nationally accredited organic standard. Not a moment too soon!”
The 11-member ODG, which includes all of Australia’s certification bodies and major industry groups provides a united voice to pursue domestic regulation of the word ‘organic’.
Organic Producer and Organic Industries Australia Director, Ian James, said it’s essential for the thousands of businesses that have gone through the process of certification.
“The whole industry is built around verification and certification of the organic claim, and this must be enforceable,” Mr James said.
“We have come together to create the ODG with the realisation that the only way forward for the organic industry to achieve domestic regulation is with the unity of one voice. Our future growth and prosperity are what is at stake.”
National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia General Manager, Alex Mitchell said it showed a maturing of the organic sector.
“This is an unprecedented commitment of the whole of industry in participating in not only the approach to policy development, but also in advocacy, such as the show of force at the event today,” Ms Mitchell said.
“It’s also critical to acknowledge the importance of bringing all the industry bodies together to listen to government so everyone can develop a common language for industry advancement.”
The ODG includes:
ORICoop has been in deep conversations with our members, producers, supply chain businesses and investors that are interested in a more sustainable and resilient food and farming system. We are keen to share our learnings – and to ask the question of the future of our food and financial systems. And what is the true colour of money?
Right now – Farmers around the country are innovating and transitioning quickly. Quicker in fact than Governments and Industry bodies realise. They are pressured by commodity prices, by wars overseas, by severe climatic events and rising interest rates. Yet with the current rising inflation – producers are not being paid much more than they were 5 years ago. Despite their costs increasing just like everyone else’s. Perhaps this is our new normal as outlined by The Guardian recently.
The elephant in the room is the consumer. The end buyer. The supermarkets. What people are willing to pay for healthy, local nutritious food. And has this split changed over the past 50 years – with regard to our lifestyles, work-life balance, debt and the priority of food over housing or other lifestyle choices. The deeper realisation of the value of health and how nutrient dense food affects the cost of maintaining good health.
What does this mean for farmers? This means that many producers (dairy and grain growers are good examples) are being asked to grow more volume per hectare of land than ever before. To the detriment of the nutrient density of the food and the land that it’s grown on. With the ambition to increase our agricultural production to over $100B from the National Farmers Federation. On land that is more expensive than ever in history with input and labour costs also at an all time high. And yet – the end price producers are receiving at the farm-gate is not that different to 10 years ago. In no way increasing comparative to the increased costs of food provided to consumers at the supermarket. Or linked to the highly profitable returns of the major supermarkets. The system is broken.
“The farmer is the only man in our economy who buys everything at retail, sells everything at wholesale, and pays the freight both ways.” John F Kennedy
So, how do we change this paradigm? Global Domestic Product measures the increase of our economy, yet does it attribute the true cost of this economic measure. Or considering the profitability and productivity opportunity across Agriculture – if we measured this ‘true cost’ paradigm differently. With increased labour costs, some of the highest in the world. How can Australia sustainably grow food comparative to many other countries. Yes with some of the largest swathes of land in the world. Noting New Zealand has a subsidised Pacific Island labour program. Europe has a heavily subsidised agriculture sector. And the US has strong support for commodity based agricultural production systems. Is Australia being left behind? Should we have an incentivised land stewardship package? Or is there a risk we will be priced out of the market? Or have we not demonstrated our clean and green image well enough to the rest of the world? Should we be more focussed on feeding our population before selling into these larger world commodity markets that may actually be part of the overall problem.
ORICoop with our ORCA ‘Farmers Own’ brand is on a bold mission. To provide bulk organic products that streamlines a more efficient organic supply chain. That provides healthier food economically to more people. And ensures that producers are sustainably growing what the market is demanding. Keeping the supply chain efficient, nimble and ensuring that the grower and end buyer understand the different parameters of a complex supply chain.
We are determined to build a stronger domestic organic market. So food travels less distance to more people, is more affordable and has a stronger provenance story. It can be healthier, grown and transported with less of a carbon footprint and more of a conscious understanding of how it was grown. Organic products have market fluctuations based on seasons, based on the capacity to plant or harvest crops. It takes innovative producers to manage significantly different years – from 2019 (severe drought) to the last two years of abundant rainfall and flooding in some regions. What producers need is markets that work with their capacity to grow and innovate. And to ensure that products grown have the best opportunity into the market – not just the perfect looking apples, or premium 14% protein grains or only Autumn flush dairy milk. We must get better at growing, manufacturing and utilising food in a truly sustainable way that ensures we are efficient, less wasteful and understand the planetary boundaries of truly sustainable agriculture.
What does this have to do with the Colour of Money? For many years investors have invested into Agriculture as a straight property investment. Not to underwrite our food security or support transition to better land stewardship practices. What if we used ‘true cost accounting’ to reflect the invisible cost to consumers of ameliorating the cost of the externalities of the industrial food production system? To reconsider the lucrative returns of 12-14% year on year. With the plan to exit after 7-9 years with a real estate property acquisition that includes significant capital growth. They call it ‘ethical impact’. The reality is, most agricultural investments provide a low (3-5%) cash return on investment (ROI) annually with a higher proportion allocated to capital growth – in the range of 5 – 8% annually. But is this model truly sustainable? For our population? Or for the planet?
To underwrite our food security we need to measure capital differently. One that views food security and land stewardship as critical to our very survival. Economically but also metaphorically. Did you know that producers pay a higher rate of interest on farmland (property) than standard interest rates? Even though land is property with property security? The front porch is not very palatable when you’re wanting something to eat, it is a question of priority? Why are producers left to fend for themselves when markets fluctuate and do not always reflect the true cost of food production. If true cost accounting was used in real terms farmers would be considered to be slaves, when considering their net profit (outside of a real estate gain), comparative to other lucrative and increasing wage levels across essential industries. Walden Mutual in the US is a leading example of how investment can be done differently. We need models like this in Australia, urgently.
To change this paradigm, investors must passionately support a fairer food and farm transition with a deeper lense, beyond just a philosophical idea. Investors that are patient and driven by ethical, sustainable and reasonable returns that considers farmers, and the health of the land and the food we eat. Investors that are looking for a co-beneficial relationship that revolutionises food and farm systems in a sustainable and earth centric manner. To invest into food systems that are innovative, multi-layered, diverse and resilient for food, farming and community benefit. Food systems that have short supply chains and are not commoditised for the benefit of the large agri-business sector – but are driven by the needs of our communities. First and foremost.
The ORCA investment Phase 2 is opening for investment shortly. This is an exciting step for ORICoop. It provides opportunity for larger investors to participate in supporting infrastructure investment into localised organic supply chains – infrastructure that enables grain to be processed within shorter distances. Including grain that is grown in a more regenerative and sustainable manner – that includes cover crops, legumes and specialty grains (lupins a prime example). Rather than a commoditised wheat, oat and barley focus that depletes the carbon and nutrient bank in the soil if not managed well, and is significantly affected by world markets. This limits the growth of the organic sector that has much capacity to flourish and expand into these premium niche markets. Australia has more than 55M hectares of farmland that is certified organic farmland. That is more than half the world’s total certified land area. From that land our organic sector is worth more than $3.6B (according to the Australian Organic Market Report), noting the US market has just exceeded US$60 Billion for the first time in history (from less land area). The Australian market is growing at 12-14% annually. What if this increased to $5B annually, or by 20% year on year these dividends were reinvested to improve on-farm knowledge, supply chain knowledge and efficiency with strategic market development? Whilst addressing climate change mitigation, adaption and addressing biodiversity loss as additional dividends. Australia can be a leader in supplying Asian markets and the Middle East for quality organic food and fibre. While looking after our land and our regional communities.
What the food and agriculture sectors need is a new Colour of Capital. One that is driven by urgency, yet patient and compassionate to the seasonality of agriculture and food systems in a changing climate. That understands we are all in this together. Australia must get better at growing and processing local food at scale. Like our forefathers and mothers did. To rebuild and scale efficient and local processing capacity, and to re-energise food production that enhances regions for their climatic and farming strength. And to build and value community driven food systems for the better. To have an innovative investment capacity that exemplifies our strength of markets, our capacity to grow large volumes of product in a sustainable manner, our seasonal diversity and access to land.
The world needs a different Colour of Capital that builds long term impact for the better. If you are interested in finding out more you can complete the EOI here.
Written by Carolyn Suggate,
Executive Director of ORICoop
E – Carolyn’s email
** Photo Credit – David McFall
The carbon credit ledger that is actively supporting local producers?
A new type of carbon credit has taken off in Australia, with the first set of credits quickly being snapped up by buyers keen to reduce their carbon footprint, and know the story behind each of the credits generated.
Eco-CreditsTM are the very first fully farmer-owned carbon credits in Australia, representing not only one tonne of carbon drawdown per credit, but the tireless efforts of local farmers actively improving their on-farm biodiversity and local ecosystems as a whole.
Victorian organic dairy farmers Stephen & Jo Ellen Whitsed and family have produced the first set of EcoCredits sold by ORICoop, and are already seeing the benefits they can bring not only to themselves, but fellow producers.
“The more credits sold, the more that assists farmers in their transition to better, which means more money directly into farmer’s pockets,” Stephen said.
While Stephen and his family had already been focusing on increasing the carbon levels in his soil, he believes the income from Eco-CreditsTM could encourage those new to the organic, regenerative agricultural space to improve their farming practices even more.
“We were farming that way anyway, we bought a Soil-Kee Renovator, we were using that to increase multi-species planted into our soil, while also increasing carbon for the overall benefit of our soil,” Stephen said.
“If you’ve got higher carbon levels, you’ve got a better soil, you hold more moisture in your soil for longer so you don’t need to irrigate as often. That’s a big cost savings for us especially this year when we start to irrigate with the increased price of diesel. We were heading down the path of improving our soils even though we were organic, and increasing our carbon, and when the opportunity came to get paid for our carbon credits, well we were doing it anyway and it’s a great opportunity, so we jumped at it,” he said.
“If we could potentially diversify our income from selling carbon credits we may not milk as many cows, because we currently milk 160 cows on 160 acres, so we’re pushing our country especially under an organic method. So we may reduce our stock levels back a little bit which in turn helps your soil with your farm anyway. And for the person that’s just starting afresh, it’s certainly something that you’d change your farm practice and head that way.”
Stephen has four soil dedicated testing zones on his properties in the region, which undergo annual soil testing. By design, Eco-CreditsTM avoids many of the greenwashing and double-dipping claims made for some conventional carbon credits. They are also future-proofed for potential soil carbon changes due to seasonal variation, or natural disasters such as the flooding, fire, and debris from storms faced by Stephen on his family farm based at the headwaters of the Murray River.
“Around half the EcoCredits we’ve produced are kept in our buffer reserve in case our carbon levels decrease in a specific year. The Eco-Credits are verified each year, and the footprint of each farm is factored into the number of credits that are released to the market. This ensures that each farm considers it’s footprint before releasing any credits to the marketplace. The environment certainly plays a part in it or if something happens and you have a drought or a fire or a flood or whatever it might be, there is potentially a concern as to reducing carbon levels” Stephen said.
For more information, or to purchase EcoCredits to meet your business offset goals whilst supporting local organic producers bettering their communities and the environment, click here. Or contact ORICoop directly for more information.
Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Featuring the high-quality bulk organic grains of our Cooperative members, ORCA is already providing direct benefits to local farmers like Ruth and Ray Penfold as well as addressing some of the issues faced by organic producers, processors, and consumers such as sustainable pricing, transparency, and authenticity of produce.
Over 350 tonnes of bulk organic grain has already been sold under the ORCA brand since its launch. Ruth and Ray were among the first producers to sell their organic barley under ORCA, and the Riverina farmers are excited to see how the brand and its innovative technology will help them and fellow producers in the future.
“Absolutely this is a game changer, especially for someone new coming into the market,” Ruth said.
“Understanding what the buyers want and having that communication there is only a positive. It’s helping them maintain retailer shelf space and prominence for the broader industry knowing they can get reliable and quality supply, it’s a big plus,” she said.
Carolyn Suggate, Executive Director of ORICoop, said creating ORCA was about ‘Connecting the missing pieces’.
“We embarked on this ambitious ORCA project as we knew that with this support, our producers could grow more organic product, achieve better on-farm profitability and we could improve the trust and transparency in organic produce sourced directly from each of these farms,” Carolyn said.
“Given we are a Producer Cooperative, the farmers and their business sustainability is the key to all we do.”
Technology is at the forefront of helping producers achieve the transparency and traceability of organic produce now demanded by processors and consumers, as well as achieve fairer pricing along the entire supply chain. The tailored online platform ensures every product from every farm is fully traceable on the blockchain, and will also help producers manage their on-farm grain seeding, harvest and storage more efficiently.
“The whole paddock to plate is incredibly important for the transparency of the industry, and it is the way everything is moving. Where traceability and ORCA supply chain connect is having sustainable and transparent prices on farm for producers, and the buyers paying fair prices, landed at their business, and that’s the only way we’re going to have a sustainable industry moving forward for the long term,” Ruth said.
“Our two big things are transparency, and understanding the story of the buyer, the feel-good warm fuzzy moment of knowing you’re selling to a mum-and-dad dairy farm down the road, but then also knowing what the processors want and that you’re able to produce what they’re after, and knowing you have a saleable product,” she said.
“I like the fact we can send grain directly to the farmer, and you’re also dealing with another farmer on the buyer’s side who is also trying to have a sustainable business for their kids moving forward as well.”
ORICoop Director Maroye Marinkovic said the Cooperative is aiming to bring big-corp benefits to the mostly smaller family farming operations who are part of the ORCA brand.
“There are many points of differentiation for ORCA produce. Every grain, or drop of milk, can be traced back to the farm – a farm that has a powerful story to tell. ORCA is connecting farmers to a set of tools and approaches that make this possible for organic producers of any size. Thanks to digital technology,” Maroye said.
“In addition to provenance and traceability, as ORICoop members, ORCA farmers also have the opportunity to join the EcoCredit program, which enables a detailed set of data points that cover everything from soil health, biodiversity, water quality, and even native species,” he said. This builds their farm profile and determines the on-farm sustainability, natural capital and the true cost and footprint of the food that is produced. An absolute game changer,” he said.
“Having end-to-end traceability along with rich on-farm and post-farm data, certifications, test results, supply chain proof points, chain of custody – are typically things that only highly efficient corporations could achieve. ORCA aims to make this available to producers of any size, and share the upside benefits with our members.”
Maroye also sees ORCA as a way for both farmers and processors to bring the benefits of ethically and environmentally-friendly grown and processed produce to consumers.
“ORCA isn’t just about building farmer capacity, tools, and storytelling – it will go way beyond that. The vision is to strengthen and sustainably grow the entire organic value chain, with shared benefits. Farmers and manufacturers can plan together, and grow together, and bring those shared benefits to the consumer,” he said.
“There is an increasing demand for high quality, healthy and organic produce, with a transparent view of how it was produced, and where. Not only the consumers want this, but the food manufacturers, as well. Ethically sourced, environmentally friendly produce is definitely better but traditionally, the barriers were scale, price and availability of organic supply. ORCA was created to tackle these challenges, whilst improving and amplifying the benefits of organic, regenerative and biodynamic farming.”
*For more information, or to register your interest bulk produce from local ORCA producers, click here.
*To discuss your specific bulk grain requirements contact ORCA directly – email@example.com
*To join ORICoop as a producer or to find out click HERE
*Producers are invited to join our Regenerative Cropping day on October 24th in the Riverina