Services forum

If a peak body for Australia's organic industries is established, what services should it provide?

This is a difficult question because providing a lot of services to the organic industry would mean setting the Peak Body up with the resources and structure to provide them better than is already being done by the private sector. It would be like setting up a new services company and it would cost money.

Even so the Peak Body could do a lot to make it easier for people to go organic, perhaps through networking and communication, that would provide services without competing with its members.

For example as a farmer I have seen the process of being certified organic, through annual inspection or audit by a certifying company, evolve from what was once a largely advisory service into what is now more of a policing service. This is a bit of a simplification but farmers either contemplating organic or just trying to stay organic do need advice, whether from consultants or from fellow growers. Perhaps the Peak Body could do this, or at least make the advice easier to find, and even tailor a package connecting me with researchers, RDCs, agronomists, soil testing labs etc that would be cheaper than me going to each of the seperately for a complete advisory package to help me comply with the Standard and remain viable.

Even so it would be important that the Peak Body doesn't try to duplicate services that are already being provided by, for example, an existing grower association such as Biodynamics Australia, or private consultants.

Another service possibility that comes to mind is a trade networking service, akin to the Organic Traders Association in the US, but this could not only be a distraction but could engender issues of commercial vested interests, so maybe best to "point" to outside organisations doing, or trying to do this.

Another possibility is simply to offer "member discounts" eg cheaper inputs, certification discount, discounted exhibitor fees but again these are marginal benefits that would not be enough to entice me to pay another membership fee on their own.

Perhaps it would be best to minimise actual service provision in order to minimise the admin and the membership cost, so that the peak body can focus on Policy and lobbying? If there were services such as an annual conference, perhaps they should be self funding? 

Yes, annual conference etc should be self funding and the peak body should stick to policy and lobbying as well as connecting the various stakeholders.


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