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Why should I certify with NCO?

NCO is Australia’s first Organic Certification Organisation

NASAA Certified Organic (NCO) is a fully owned subsidiary of the National Association of Sustainable Agriculture Australia (NASAA).  NCO was formed in 2002 in response to the growing demand for organic certification both in Australia and Internationally.

We are Australia’s oldest organic certifier and are recognised as a leader in the world of organics. We have a history of providing certification services of high quality and integrity not only in Australia but also in 11 different countries namely Nepal, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Samoa, Malaysia, Timor-Leste, Brazil, Solomon Islands, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Tonga – comprising over 17,000 small farmers.

 Our parent company the National Association for Sustainable Agriculture, Australia (NASAA) was established in 1986, and has a long history of supporting the education of industry and consumers on organic, biodynamic and sustainable agricultural practices. 

Worldwide recognition and market access

The NASAA label is well respected and recognized both domestically and internationally by regulators, in the marketplace, and most importantly, by the consumer.

For operators who are wishing to export to international markets, NCO certification enables access to all unregulated international markets for organics, and has an equivalency agreement with the EU and Switzerland for their regulated marketplace. NASAA Certified Organic also offers additional certification programs to enable access to other regulated international markets such as the US, China, Japan, Canada and Korea.

In Australia, the largest certified land area is certified by NCO. 

Customer service

NCO prides itself on providing quality customer service to its operators, and values its clients whether they have small, medium or large operations

NCO also utilizes a state-of-the-art eCert software system, which provides efficiency, accountability and traceability across all services.

Quality organic certification from paddock to plate

NCO certifies producers, processors, packers, transporters, and retail businesses across the whole organic supply chain, which ensures complete confidence in the quality and integrity of NCO certified products.

 

Supporting the organic industry

NCO is committed to developing and maintaining Organic Standards by working in collaboration with organic bodies, operators and consumer groups for the benefit of the whole organic industry.

What are the steps involved in the application process?

  1. Read the Standards applicable to your operation.
  2. Critically appraise your operation.
  3. Talk it over with NCO staff.
  4. Make an application
  5. Application documents and initial application fees are submitted.
  6. Organic Management (Producer)/Handling (Processor) Plan and relevant documentation is assessed by a Certification Officer.
  7. Inspection date and time is allocated and on-site inspection takes place.
  8. Inspection report (compiled by the Inspector) is reviewed by a Certification Officer.
  9. Subject to a successful application and inspection, a certification contract and certificate is issued to the operator.

Which certification program is best for me?

Standard Producer

Any operator who is engaged in primary production of animal and/or plant products which includes but is not limited to livestock, poultry, horticulture, aquaculture, wild harvest (harvest of wild or naturalised foods and fibres), and apiaries (Note: An apiarist handling honey from other producers is considered a Processor).

All producers who sell their products to wholesalers and/or for export must be certified as a Standard Producer.

Intention to export must be declared at application.  

Domestic Producer

Any operator who is engaged in primary production of plant or animal products and sells their products directly to consumers and does not export or sell to retailers or the wholesale market.

Only applicable to:

  • Australian Producers
  • Operators with a sales turnover of less than $40,000 per year
  • Operators who sell direct to consumers – must not supply produce to wholesale or any processing chain.

 On-Farm Processing

Operators conducting simple processing of certified product produced on-farm as a value-adding enterprise. Simple on-farm processing may include, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Dehydrating
  • Cleaning
  • Dehulling
  • Packing
  • Storing
  • Grading.

Operators who undertake complex on-farm processing, and/or on-farm processing that is a separate business, must be certified separately as a Processor. If the processing is for more than one other Producer, the processing facility shall be certified in its own right as a Processor.

Processor/Handler

Any operator who owns certified product and has this product modified or manufactured either by themselves or at one or more certified contract processors. Packing of the end product may be included in this process.

Processes include: cooking, baking, curing, heating, drying, mixing, grinding, churning, separating, extracting, slaughtering, cutting, fermenting, distilling, eviscerating, preserving, dehydrating, freezing, chilling, or otherwise manufacturing, and includes the packaging, canning, jarring, or otherwise enclosing of food in a container. Edible sprout production is certified as processing.

Intention to export must be declared at application.

Contract Processor

An operator that does not own any certified product (i.e. no products under own label), but processes under a written contract for other certified operators e.g. slaughter house, manufacturer of health & beauty products, or other manufacturer.

Input Manufacturer

Any operator that manufactures products or inputs that may be used on farms or in processing facilities, e.g. fertilisers, packaging material, sanitisers, composts, livestock treatments, etc.

Products that are intended for use as ingredients or processing aids in certified food products are excluded.

Packer/Transporter

An operator that packs certified product without modification, manufacture, or wholesale distribution, generally under contract for another certified operator. The product is not owned by the packer. Label application is only for another certified operator under contract. 

Exception: Primary Producers that pack & market their own produce and pack for other operators. In this case, the levy is paid on the Producer license.

Sub-License

Any third party operation that is not directly certified, but that is subcontracted by a certified operator to provide a service such as packing, storage or processing. The certified operator takes responsibility for the certification with the sub-licensee that is subcontracted to the certified operator.

May not be involved in an export chain (if so, the operator must be directly certified in own right).

Main license sales must be under $500,000 p.a., thereafter sublicense must be directly certified.

Multiple Location

An additional separate site that is owned by a certified operator. All products, produce, and/or animals sold under the name of the certified operator.

The site will be given an identification number and will be listed on the contract schedule and certificate of the main license. Some examples include: an additional depot of a certified transport operation, additional landholding owned/operated by a Producer, storage silo facilities for a Processor.

The production and handling at the additional site must be the same as that of the main license.

May not be involved in an export chain (if so, the operator must be directly certified in own right).

Wholesaler/Exporter/Importer

Any operator that purchases and wholesales or distributes certified product without modification. There is no label use for this category of certification.

If packing is required, and includes label use, then the operator must be certified as a Processor.

How much does certification cost?

The advantage of being one of the most well established Certification Bodies in the organic industry means that we can offer you competitive certification fees to suit your operation’s needs.

Please contact the NCO Office for a copy of the NCO Fee Schedule. 

How long does it take to become certified?

The time taken to become certified is dependent upon several mitigating factors, including the complexity of the review process, the location of the site to be certified, and inspector availability. 

However, as a rough guide, the application process takes approximately 4-6 weeks from the time that the application is submitted to the time that the contract is issued.

Note that Producers are subject to conditions proving their organic compliance time.  Please  see How long is the conversion process before I become fully certified? question below.

How long is the conversion process before I become fully certified?

Only producers are subject to a conversion period prior to becoming fully certified. All other operators are eligible for full certification status following their first inspection.

Producer Conversion Period

NOS Standard Section  
3.2.1 Production units can only be certified as in-conversion after at least one year under organic management practices.
3.2.2 Systems certified as in-conversion shall progress to organic status within a timeframe determined by the approved certifying organisation, but this cannot be less than three years from the commencement of organic management practices.
3.2.3 Production units must be under an approved certifying organisation for at least 12 months to be eligible for certification as Organic or Biodynamic.

Producers are required to have undertaken 36 months of organic management prior to the achievement of full certification status. Therefore, if an operator can demonstrate that organic practices were commenced 36 months prior to full certification status, then they may be eligible for in-conversion status after the first inspection, and full certification status after the second inspection

How often will my operation need to be inspected?

Operators can expect inspections as part of their contract with NCO as the certifying body. These inspections may be routine, additional or unannounced, as defined below:

Routine:

These inspections are annual in occurrence. The operator is advised of a pending inspection, contacted by the inspector and a mutual time arranged. Input manufacturers may be eligible for biennial inspections.

Additional:

The operator may request additional inspections when there is a change in contract required or NCO may require an additional inspection to satisfy certification requirements. Additional inspections are paid for by the operator.

Unannounced:

Unannounced inspections are a requirement of NCO accreditation and are a tool for ensuring compliance. Unannounced inspections may be selected at random and/or in response to NCO concerns. The operator is not forewarned of the inspection.

Where can I find the NCO Organic Standard?

The pdf NCO Organic Standard (NOS) (721 KB) is available free online and is also available for sale from the NCO Office.

NCO also certifies traders who comply with requirements detailed in the pdf Standard for Organic Traders (333 KB). The scope of the Trader Standard covers retail operations, restaurants, home delivery, food preparation, retail-based self-repackers and handlers. Whilst the Organic Trader Standard is a discrete document, all relevant sections of the NASAA Organic Standard also apply to Trader certification.

What is the difference between the NCO Organic Standard and the National Standard for Organic and Biodynamic Produce?

The NASAA Organic Standard is a document that outlines the practices and materials that are allowed, restricted or prohibited for use in order to be certified by NCO. They define the minimum conditions for certification under NCO's Organic Certification Program, which is accredited jointly by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR) and IFOAM.

The National Standard for Organic and Biodynamic Produce provides the organic industry with a nationally agreed standard for the export of products labelled Organic or Biodynamic. This Standard therefore forms the basis of equivalency agreements between approved certifying organisations and importing country requirements. The National Standard can be downloaded from the DAWR website.

I am certified already but wish to transfer to NCO, what do I need to do?

If you would like to transfer your certification to NCO, you will need to complete the application requirements as per any new applicant for certification. However, the provision of your current Certificate of Registration along with a copy of your last Inspection report, will facilitate this process. More information on the process and conditions are available  pdf Transfer to NCO Certification Info (23 KB)

Where are your Inspectors located?

NCO has Inspectors located both nationally and internationally. If you would like an estimate of your inspection costs, you need to contact the NCO Office.

What does ‘In-Conversion to Organic’ mean?

‘In-Conversion to Organic’ refers to a production system that has been assessed as complying with the NASAA Organic Standard for a minimum of at least one year, but has not yet completed the three-year period of compliance required to fully qualify as organic or biodynamic. During the in-conversion stage, operators can apply the NCO in-conversion label to their products. Please visit this link for a guide to NASAA label styles: NASAA Label Style Guide.

What is an Organic Management Plan (OMP)/Organic Handling Plan (OHP)?

The OMP/OHP is a written document that is designed to help certified operators achieve best practice management by documenting current and future management practices. The plan is a flexible tool for best practice management of the certified operation and provides NCO with an important means of assessing compliance with the Standard. An inherent aspect of an OMP/OHP is ongoing monitoring of all aspects of the organic system.

What can I do to prepare for my inspection?

Appropriate preparation for an inspection enables the inspection to proceed efficiently, and therefore more economically. For more information about what you need to do to prepare for your inspection, please refer to: Link to ‘Preparing for your inspection’ document.

Where can I find information about other certified organic operators?

NCO provides a listing of all current NCO Certified operators on the NCO website in the Product Search section.

I am purchasing an already-certified property/facility, what do I need to do?

Certification is not automatically transferable either to a new owner upon sale of a property or to a new property upon being taken up by a certified operator (link to ‘Transfer of Ownership’ document). The new owner will need to lodge a new application if certification is desired, and this may require a period of time to demonstrate appropriate organic management skills to NCO.

For producers who are purchasing a certified property, in order to continue the certification status of the property, new owners can enter into a ‘Mentorship Agreement’ with the previous certified owners.  The NCO Mentorship Agreement means that if the property has a new owner, the previous owner is obligated to mentor and assist with on-farm decisions in the first 12 months of organic certification under the new ownership.

I am leasing property, can I get certified?

Growers who lease land will be required to produce evidence of lease agreements which specify that all management activities are the sole responsibility of the lessee (licensee) or alternatively, include the lessor as a party in the contract of certification. If this documentation can be provided, operators who lease property may become certified. 

I have a landless production system. Can I get certified organic?

NASAA Certified Organic does certify landless systems, which includes greenhouses, sprouts, and mushrooms. Specific requirements for landless production can be accessed within the NASAA Organic Standard.

How can I check if an input is allowed?

  1. Refer to the relevant Standard/s for allowed and/or prohibited inputs.
  2. Use certified suppliers – check certification certificates are current and valid.
  3. If still unsure, contact NCO to confirm if a product is allowable or not.

Can I certify only a portion of my property?

Certification of only a portion of an operator’s property is referred to as Split Certification.

Operators may progressively convert their farming unit under certification over time. Until such time as the entire farming unit is incorporated under certification the farming unit may operate under split certification. Split certification increases the risks of contamination of certified product and operators need to provide detail to NCO on how they intend to eventually convert the entire farming unit to certification.

Can I process certified organic as well as non-organic products at my facility?

Yes, this is referred to as 'parallel production'. In instances of parallel production, the operator must demonstrate that there is no risk of contamination or co-mingling between the certified and non-certified products.

Can I use a shared commercial kitchen to make my certified organic products?

Shared commercial kitchens may be used for the production of certified organic goods. However, the operator must demonstrate that the facility is compliant with organic standards while the certified product is being processed. This includes demonstrating that there is no risk of contamination or co-mingling of the certified and non-certified products.

I am importing certified products from overseas into Australia, do I need to become certified?

If a certified product is imported into Australia in its final packaging and then distributed for sale, the importer of the product does not necessarily need to become certified. However, if the importer is re-packaging/re-labelling the certified product under their own brand prior to sale, and wishes to make claims to organic certification on the product, they will need to become certified in their own right.

I don’t manufacture any products, but I re-package certified organic goods under my own brand. Do I need to get certified?

If an operator is re-packaging a certified product and wishes to label the product as being certified organic, and use the NASAA Certified Organic label, then they will need to apply for certification as a Processor.

If I only want to identity certified organic ingredients on a product’s ingredients panel, do I need to become certified?

Certified ingredients can be identified on a product’s ingredient panel without the product being certified. However, in this situation no use of the NASAA label or reference that the final product is certified can be made.

How does NCO verify that products do not contain GMOs?

Operators using input materials at risk of containing GMOs must obtain signed statements from the suppliers of these materials which state that they do not contain GMOs or their derivatives. This information may be backed up by laboratory analysis where deemed necessary by NCO.

I am not certified, but I want to use the NASAA label on my products

You must be certified as either a Producer, a Processor, or an Input Manufacturer to be eligible to use the NASAA label.  Even if you are only repacking the product, as long as you intend to use the NASAA label, you must apply for certification in one of these three categories.

I am a Producer (land) and would like to transfer to NASAA Certified Organic from another certification body, what documentation do I require from my current certifier?

  • Copy of your currnet Certificate or Registration
  • Contract letter from current certifier.
  • Latest Inspection Report.
  • Copies of your soil and/or tissue analysis.

Who should I contact if I want/need some organic consulting advice?

NCO recommends several highly-qualified well established organic consultants, particularly if you are new to the industry.

Tim Marshall was one of the founding members of NASAA and started his own company, TM Organics Pty Ltd, in 2006. He is also the author of certification standards and guidebooks. In addition, he is one of the board members for the Organic Federation of Australia. Tim Marshall website link

Greg Paynter has 36 years’ experience in agriculture mostly in the Organic Industry and consults in Australia and Internationally. He has worked as a producer, researcher and organic project leader and in organic certification for 13 years as an Auditor and Reviewer as well as being involved in Organic Standard Committees. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Greg Paynter Linked In Profile

Kim Hack has had a long-term affiliation with NCO and will be able to assist you for Producer certification in Western Australia, specialising in... Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

For more information on support groups and networking, see link for State and Regional Groups, Grower and Consumer Associations

I am an Input Manufacturer, and would like to be 'Certified Organic'

If a product cannot be traced back to organic production at a farm level, then it cannot be “Certified Organic”.  If you manufacture an input, your product may be eligible to be certified as an “Input for Organic Production”.

My contact information has changed, how do I notify NCO?

If your contact details have changed, you will need to complete a ‘Change of Operator Details’ form. Please click on link to complete ‘pdf Change of Operator Details (69 KB)’.

What are the NCO product labelling rules?

Please refer to the Label Style Guide for more information about NCO labelling rules. The use of the NASAA label as part of client product packaging and/or promotional material is subject to terms and conditions. This information is available here  NASAA Labelling Rules

I am a Processor, how can I ensure that my ingredients are sourced correctly?

Ingredients certified to a non-accredited certification program (OGA, Sci-Qual, SCPA, & even NASAA’s Domestic Only) are not allowed as ingredients under any of the accredited programs.  Please submit certificates to NCO for assessment to ensure ingredients are compliant.

I am already certified as a processor and am adding a new product to my certification, what do I need to do?

Adding new products to certification requires that an pdf Extension of Scope Application (51 KB) form is completed and returned to NCO. Completing this form will enable the new product/s to be assessed prior to approval for certification.

If the products are added at the time of an operator’s annual re-inspection there will be no application fees payable. However, should the operator add the product between scheduled inspections, there may be application and/or corresponding inspection fees.

What percentage of ingredients is required for my product to be eligible for Organic Certification?

Any one processed product must contain a minimum of 95% of Organic ingredients by raw  material  weight  (excluding  salt  and  added  water)  to  be  labelled  as  a  Certified Organic product. Take, for example, a tomato sauce whose ingredients are shown below, the percentage of certified ingredients will be 96% Certified Organic (tomato and sugar). Salt and water are not considered in the equation.

  • 90ml Certified Organic tomato
  • 6ml Certified Organic sugar
  • 4ml Non Certified herbs and spices
  • 50ml Salt
  • 50ml Water. 

(calculation assumes gm = ml)

I want to export my products overseas, what international markets can I access by certifying with NCO Certified Organic?

NCO is able to facilitate access to all unregulated international markets for organics. Certification with NCO can also facilitate access to many regulated markets, including the EU, US, Canada, China, Taiwan, Japan and Korea. If you are interested in exporting certified goods contact NCO office directly for specific country requirements.

What documentation is required when I make Organic sales?

All Certified Operators must keep records of certified sales as detailed on the 'pdf Produce Transfer Certificate (27 KB)'.

What is an Export Certificate and how do I request one?

An export certificate is a mandatory document issued by NCO to confirm that export goods claiming to be organic are certified by an approved certification organisation accredited by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR). It is refer to as an Organic Produce Certificate (OPC). An OPC export certificate issued by a competent authority or government approved certification body is required for each consignment of certified in-conversion or certified organic goods that is exported outside of Australia.

In order to request an export certificate please contact the NCO office directly.

Can’t find what you are looking for?

Contact the NCO Office directly. 

Can I add additional land to my current certification?

In order to add additional land and/or crops/livestock to certification, an pdf Application for Additional Acreage (597 KB) must be completed and returned to NCO (with payment if applicable). The application will be assessed for approval prior to inspection. This pdf Information Sheet (27 KB) has been created that explains the process.

If additional acreage is added at the time of your annual re-inspection, no fee charge is required.

Note: Additional acreage applications cannot be presented to the Inspector at the time of re-inspection.

I would like to add another site to my certification

Congratulations on the growth of your business!  You will first need to answer a few questions:

  • Who has control over the other site? i.e. leased or owned
  • How far away is the other site?
  • Is the site registered under the same ABN?

Existing License

If the separate site is in close proximity to your current certified operation and owned by yourself (or rented under a lease) under the same ABN, then this site can fall under the existing License.  All products/produce /animals must be sold under the name of the certified operator (same ABN).

Multiple License

If the separate site is owned by yourself (or rented under a lease) under the same ABN, but at a distance from the existing certified site, then the new site can be applied for as part of a multiple license agreement.  All products/produce/animals must be sold under the name of the certified operator (same ABN).

Sub-License

If the new site is a third party operation to be subcontracted by a certified operator to provide a service such as packing, storage, or processing, the certified operator takes responsibility for the certification. Under such an arrangement a Sub License:

  • May not be involved in an export chain (if so, Sub-License must be directly certified in own right)
  • May operate under license where annual sales exceed $500,000 (if so, Sub-License must be directly certified in own right).

What are the requirements for using treated timber posts?

The new or replacement use of treated timber (i.e. CCA, creosote), is prohibited (Section 3.1.9 of the pdf NOS (721 KB)). Existing treated posts that are on the property already at the time of application are unlikely to present an impediment to seeking certification.

What are the requirements for certifying livestock?

Livestock will always take on the certification status of the property that they are on. Therefore, only animals born, raised and gestated on an organic farm from the last trimester are eligible for full organic certification.

All aspects of stock management must comply with the organic requirements of the NASAA Organic Standard (NOS) including but not limited to:

  • addressing welfare issues from the basis of species behavioural needs
  • maintaining stock health with quality diet and nutrition
  • addressing on-farm and/or neighbouring activity contamination possibilities
  • stock identification, transport and humane slaughtering activities 

Can I use non-organic feed for my certified organic livestock?

Only feeds from organic certified sources (pasture and concentrates) are permitted, with the exception of up to 5% of the total feed intake permitted to include supplementary feed of non-agricultural source. Such feed must not include prohibited substances.

Prohibited feeds include urea, blood and bone and concentrates from non-organic sources other than those listed in this Standard.

Can non-organic animals be pastured on certified organic land?

Non-certified stock can be agisted on certified land, provided quarantine requirements are adhered to.  Animals must be clearly identified as non-certified and managed in accordance with the Standard during the agistment period

Can non-organic livestock ever become certified organic?

Non-organic livestock cannot ever become Certified Organic. This is because only animals born, raised and gestated on an organic farm from the last trimester are eligible for full organic certification.

What are the requirements for buffer zones on a certified property?

A buffer zone is a clearly defined and identifiable boundary area that borders an organic production site. The buffer zone is established to limit the application of, or contact with, prohibited substances from an adjacent area. Windbreaks and shelter-belts act as a form of buffer zone providing multiple functions including some protection from contamination.

Examples of buffer zones include:

• multiple rows of trees and/or hedges

• acceptable distances from contamination (not less than 5 metres)

• physical barriers to prevent spray drift.

What are the requirements for purchased compost?

The compost must either be certified as an “Input for Organic Production” and verified with a valid certificate, OR

Certified to the Australian Standard 4454 -2012, and verified with a valid certificate, OR

Submitted for assessment using the ' pdf Non Certified Compost Application Form (286 KB)' . 

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