Certification First Steps
* Read the Standards applicable to your operation.
* Critically appraise your operation.
* Talk it over with NASAA staff.
* Make an application.
There are three elements that are inextricably linked in the certification process: People, Land and Product. It is the combination of the three, linking into an organic management plan, that signifies the legal bounds of the certified operation – any change in ownership, sale of property or relocation, or change in product harvested and manufactured will require a change in the registration of the certified operation.
The process of Certification will differ, dependent on whether you are a Primary Producer, or involved in Manufacturing and Distribution or Retail Trade. These differing steps are explained in detail further down this page.
The NASAA Standards are your guide to achieving certified organic status, and include:
|pdf The NASAA Organic Standard (1.56 MB)||Primary Producers
(incl. Biodynamic), Input Manufacturers, Processors, Packers, Wholesalers, Transporters, Exporters
|pdf NOS Addendum Section 12 7 Cosmetic Labelling Standard February 2011 (13 KB)||Cosmetic Labelling Standard February 2011|
|pdf NASAA Trader Standard (333 KB)||Retailers, Restaurants, Markets|
It is essential that you read through the relevant standards applicable to your operation before submitting an application for certification.
Application and Questionnaire
Making an application is easy. After reading the NASAA Standards, simply fill out the certification application form relevant to your operation, and you're on your way to Certification!
In addition to submitting an application form, you will be required to fill out a Questionnaire outlining your organic management/handling plan, and to sign a Statutory Declaration in relation to the current activities and management of the operations for which you are seeking certification.
There are several relevant Questionnaires dependent on your focus of operation: document Organic Management Plan (856 KB) (Primary Production), pdf Organic Handling Plan (103 KB) (Manufacturing & Distribution), pdf Organic Handling Plan (98 KB) (Input Manufacturing), pdf Trader Questionnaire (36 KB) (Retail) or pdf Trader Questionnaire (33 KB) (Market).
Upon receipt of your application and questionnaire, you will receive a letter of confirmation from NCO, naming an inspector who has been allocated to inspect your operation. Inspections are subcontracted to a wide network of professional, independent and NCO trained organic inspectors spread across Australia and South East Asia.
The role of the inspector is to assist in the regulation of operations under certification to ensure compliance with NASAA Standards. NCO conducts both announced and unannounced inspections to ensure that operations are run in accordance with Standards. These inspections may be conducted with representatives from accrediting organisations DAWR, IFOAM, JAS and USDA in attendance.
The inspection will include a physical look at the operation, as well as a review of all record-keeping. The inspector may take soil or tissue samples for chemical/residue analysis and will note issues such as how you manage your operation in accordance with the Standards and any contamination risks or other potential problems.
Inspection reports will then be reviewed by NCO's Certification Officer, and a decision made in relation to certification.
Review of Inspection Report
NCO has a team of technically competent and trained certification officers who make decisions in relation to applications for, and the continuation of, Certification.
The certification officer will review the inspection report, communicate any relevant non-compliances, assess the responses to non-compliances and inform the outcome of the assessment. This also includes any ongoing conditions of your certification.
Note: Applicants to certification have the right to appeal, in writing, any part of the contract offer by NCO.
Transfer of Certification
Where advantageous to the operator, NCO will facilitate transfer of an existing organic certification to NCO certification. The process requires the forwarding of key documentation, including a current certificate of registration and farm map/plan. Contact NCO for further details of the process of transfer or refer to the pdf information sheet (25 KB).
NCO Fees & Charges
NCO's fees are competitive, with a pricing structure that serves to underpin the provision of the certification service, facilitating access throughout the world for NCO certified products.
Contact the NCO Office for a copy of the Fee Schedule for further detail on applicable certification costs.
Our fee structure comprises an initial application fee and inspection deposit, and annual charges and levy payment system where applicable.
Make an Application
The following link will take you to the 'Make an Application' page which includes all the relevant documents in one easy-to-use space.
Primary Production Certification Steps
Achieving full certification as a primary producer is a total of a 36-month process, however if an operator can demonstrate compliance with standards for 24 months prior to the first inspection, then they may be eligible for inconversion status after the first Application inspection, and full certification status after the second inspection (after 36 months of compliance with standards). Converting your Farm operation to organic systems requires forward planning and a long-term commitment. Producers need to be aware of the potential for some loss of income initially as your production systems adapt to the organic management system, where conventional farming methods and inputs are phased out and converted to organic practices. Do not let this dissuade you, however - the key to successful organic farming is an attitude of being in it for the long haul! Many of our certified farmers are testimony to the long-term benefits of organic farming, with resultant improvements to the land farmed, and improved, sustainable incomes.
Year 1: In Conversion
Following a successful initial farm inspection, eligible operators will undergo a minimum 12-month inconversion period. Full compliance with the production standards is required during this period, to demonstrate the producer’s ability to manage their enterprise organically, prior to gaining full certification status. During this period, goods may be labelled as ‘In-Conversion’. Operators are advised to contact the NCO office to discuss their certification status based on the individual period of compliance with standards.
Years 2:Organic Certification
A subsequent inspection will be arranged towards the end of your initial 12-month in-conversion period, to ascertain the degree to which you have met the standards requirements. Full certification may be achieved at this point, following a review by NCO if there is demonstrated 36 months compliance to the standard. The ‘in-conversion’ period will generally take a minimum of 12 months to reach full certification. However, this may not be applicable to all situations. Following the 36 months of consecutive organic management, full certification may be granted to the producer. Compliance with production standards must continue for your certified status to be ongoing. Annual reinspections of properties and unannounced inspections are also required to ensure that the standards are being met. Full certification enables the use of the “NASAA Certified Organic” label on goods for sale. * Note: Farm operations must undertake a total of 36 months of proven Organic management to their holding, this process may be expediated taking into account past land use in accordance with organic standards - including non-use of prohibited inputs at the point of application, and evidence of verifiable records to this effect.
NASAA has Standards to specifically address biodynamic production. Biodynamic production systems are based on principles established by Dr Rudolph Steiner in 1924. Biodynamic farmers seek to enhance the soil’s structure and nutrient cycles, as well as plant growth and development with the use of specific Preparations which are made from farm-sourced materials. As the name suggests, these Preparations are designed to work directly with the dynamic biological processes and cycles, which are the basis of soil fertility. While biodynamic production methods are, by their very nature, compatible with organic standards, organic production systems are not by default biodynamic. Product certified as biodynamic can be sold under the “NASAA Certified Biodynamic” label or the “NASAA Organic” label.
Manufacturing and Distribution Steps
The concept of certification services 'from paddock to plate' brings with it an emphasis on guaranteeing that the integrity of organic food is maintained beyond the farm gate to the end user.
Organic certification in the processing and manufacturing sector is complementary to existing environmental, quality assurance and HACCP based food quality standards and certification, and ensures that the transporting of goods, use of ingredients and inputs, and processing activities are undertaken in compliance with Organic Standards.
In contrast to Farmers, who undertake a precertification phase of one year, Manufacturing & Distribution operations can achieve certification following an initial inspection of the processing facilities and records management, if assessed as being in compliance with the relevant NASAA Standards.
The onus is on the processing operation to demonstrate the practical measures adopted to ensure that organic integrity is maintained throughout the production chain.
Certification of Processed Product
For a final product to be labelled 'certified organic', 100% of the agricultural product ingredient must be certified, with the onus on the Processor to ensure that there is a clear, auditable paper trail to verify claims. Under existing Standards, there is an allowance for the use of non-agricultural processing aids and additives (excluding salt and water), provided it accounts for not more than 5% of final product.
Processed products which have been certified may use the NASAA Label on packaging. If the processed product contains, however, ingredient which is certified In-Conversion, the final product must be labelled as Certified In-Conversion.
Certification of Inputs
Certification as an Input Manufacturer is a specific classification encompassing the production and processing of non-food products i.e. farm input products, such as fertilisers and pest and disease control products.
The certification relates to the compatibility of the end product with the NASAA Standard. It involves a site inspection of the manufacturing plant and does not require the inspection and certification of all constituent ingredients.
For this reason, certification as an Input Manufacturer does not enable the labelling of products as "Organic", rather as "Input for Organic Production".
Retail operations can be certified following an initial inspection once assessed as meeting the Standards criteria.
The growth of the organic industry has seen a corresponding growth in the number of traders and handlers of organic produce and products. Given the high profile that organics has in the community, it is often the retailer who is perceived as the representative for the industry.
NASAA certifies organic retail traders through its retail certification program*. The development of Standards specific to this sector recognised a need to regulate the integrity of these industry ambassadors to ensure that, firstly, consumers have a guarantee of the purchase of genuine organic product and, secondly, that genuine organic suppliers are protected from other conventional suppliers claiming 'organic' or 'natural' status.
The Standards set out requirements for the handling, packing, storage and warehousing of product, separation of 'organic' from 'conventional' product, and use of display identification and labelling.
Due to their nature of operation, Restaurants and Markets must meet additional requirements particularly in relation to labelling and documentation under NASAA's trading standards.
Certified retail traders may use the NASAA Certified Trader label for marketing and publicity purposes.
* NASAA's retail, restaurant and market certification standards currently fall outside of the scope of IFOAM Accreditation. The trading program has been based upon standards originally developed by the Organic Retailers and Growers Association of Australia (ORGAA), whose operations merged with NASAA in 2002. NASAA will facilitate the continued development of the trading standards.