What we've been asked to do—the brief
Policy Partners was engaged by the Australian Organic Industry Working Group (AOIWG) to assist it to develop a roadmap to improve the representation of Australia's organic industry, with a view to establishing a harmonised national voice for all organic producers, certifiers and the supply chain.
Policy Partners and AOIWG agreed the following project plan:
Establish multiple channels as soon as possible: website; Facebook; Twitter; MailChimp newsletters (subscriber email distribution list); newsletters through existing communication channels (e.g. certifiers).
Provide executive support services to the AOIWG:
- secure site for working papers, reference material and collaboration
- establish a clipart and photograph repository for WG to contribute social media content
- central email distribution list for the AOIWG
- recording minutes and action items from meetings and ensuring execution
- general secretariat services as required by Chair AOIWG
Manage implementation and reporting in respect of any successful grant applications.
Explore options for government partnerships.
Develop an issues paper to guide industry consultations.
Use the website social media to promote engagement.
Convene a workshop with AOIWG to provide guidance to the engagement process.
Convene up to 6 regional consultation workshops around issues in the discussion paper.
Conduct interviews with key industry and external stakeholders.
Develop a timetable and process for subsequent activities.
Consider different funding scenarios.
Develop terms of reference for a permanent project manager.
Provide for transitional arrangements and handover.
Prepare a project report outlining the process undertaken, key lessons and recommended next steps.
Prepare an executable solution to the problem recognised by industry which is seeking a harmonised voice for industry, whilst ensuring a wide contribution in the development of the solution.
What we did—the project
Industry conference with Government
The Commonwealth Government convened a conference on 9 June 2017 with a steering group from AOIWG. This was a follow-up to forums convened on 8 December 2016 and 30 January 2017. The Commonwealth was represented by:
- Office of the Minister for Agriculture
- Department of Agriculture
- Department of Treasury
- Department of Industry
- Australian Competition and Consumer Commission
- Food Innovation Australia Ltd
Review of existing documents
We reviewed a range of existing material, including:
- three reports on the structure of a new peak body previously prepared for AOIWG
- documents and website pages on premium markets and the organic industry prepared by Commonwealth and State governments
- the Australian legal framework for the import and export of organic products
- documents and website pages on international trade arrangements for organic products
- the Organic Industry Research and Development Plan (2006-11)
- peer reviewed literature
To enhance national communication, a dedicated website was developed and maintained to provide information on the project and to permit feedback via the web on key issues.
A Facebook page, Twitter feed and LinkedIn company page have been established, and the number of followers has been growing at a steady rate.
Workshop with AOIWG
After initial meetings with representative of the AOIWG and Commonwealth Government an issues paper and consultation questions were prepared with the Policy Partners conducted consultations between June and October 2017 holding consultation workshops in seven locations and via phone discussions with organic industry actors and others including researchers and agricultural departments (see Attachment B).
The issues paper was introduced with a clear statement of the projects purpose and the reasons for the consultations:
This project has been initiated by the Australian Organic Industry Working Group (AOIWG)—industry leaders from across Australia who are collaborating with a view to establishing a harmonised national voice for all organic producers, certifiers and the supply chain.
Its envisaged that this project may result in a new national representative body that will be the voice of organic industries at national and state level and that promotes viable and sustainable industries with broad representation from all sectors.
To make sure that any representative body has broad support, the project aims to have industry-wide consultation and communication, and the involvement of all levels―from small boutique producers to major exporters and the organic certifiers.
It is critical that we understand the needs of the whole sector and the value that a representative body may be able to provide to its future members—so we want to we hear from the many voices across all of Australia's diverse organic industries.
The issues paper and subsequent consultation workshops were structured around seven themes:
- value creation and a compelling business case
- membership and corporate structure
- standards and integrity
- market access
- improving R&D coordination and innovation
- planning for growth and industry expansion
- review of arrangements under the Export Control Act
The project gained evidence of the widespread and strong support for a new or revitalised peak body from growers, processors, wholesalers, exporters, retailers and certifiers. There was general support that the body should focus on the following primary functions:
- policy development and advocacy
- industry growth and development via national coordination and facilitation
- improving market access and exports
- building partnerships and strategic alliances
- research and development strategy development, partnerships and influence
The consultations identified a strong consensus on:
- the desirability and support for a new body
- the view that there should be no increase in grower or processor fees
- the need for domestic regulations
- the need to pursue opportunities to enhance industry growth