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Converting to organic production methods

Organic farming involves undergoing a period of conversion in which the land and producer adjust to the organic methods.

The conversion period for the change from conventional to organic farming depends on the type of enterprise which are outlined in the table below:

In certain cases the conversion period may be extended or reduced by the inspection body subject to the approval of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

The time periods required above are initiated by the farmer submitting his/her farming enterprise to inspection and certification by one of the inspection bodies outlined above.

Prior to commencing conversion, the farmer must submit an application along with a conversion plan, drawn up by either the farmer or a qualified planner to the inspection body for approval. The farm is then inspected by the inspection body who will then adjudicate on the application. For more detailed information on this process, the farmer should contact any of the approved inspection bodies.

After the required conversion period expires, the inspection body may issue organic status to the farmer (unless conversion period is being extended), which allows the farmer to sell his/her produce as organic.

There is often a financial cost associated with conversion. These costs vary widely according to individual circumstances but would be influenced by some of the following factors:

  • output reduction due to changes in production practices,
  • capital investments in land, machinery, livestock housing etc.,
  • certification and inspection costs,
  • loss of some direct support payments, e.g. eligibility for livestock headage payments where numbers are reduced and
  • inability to command premium prices during the conversion phase.

It is recommended that farmers considering the organic option seek advice on the principles of organic farming.