The Soil & Health Association welcomes the launch of the Green Party initiated $2.1 million Organic Advisory Program, and sees the program as part of New Zealand’s aim of being a truly sustainable nation.
The Organic Advisory Program, operated through Organics Aotearoa New Zealand, is an outcome of the post election negotiations between Labour and the Greens, and will be launched on Thursday March 15 at Lincoln University.
The highlight of the program, according to Soil & Health spokesperson Steffan Browning, is the ‘Smart Start’ service, providing growers a subsidised on-farm consultancy when considering conversion to organics.
Smart Start’s personalised focus is a significant initiative that for $200 allows producers access to a one-on-one consultancy on their own property, looking at the property’s potential for conversion to certified organic production.
While the Smart Start program will be available to most producers, Soil & Health hopes for a future even more affordable program, extending to the smaller and part-time producers that may supply only a roadside or Farmers Market stall.
The current criteria for Smart Start require the producer to have commercial organic aims in excess of $20,000.
“For consumer protection it is important to get all market stall-holders, who claim organic status, to become certified,” said Mr Browning.
Soil & Health is excited about other initiatives getting underway from the Organic Advisory Program, including the 0800-Organic Helpline, a website and various regional and sector initiatives.
Serious commitment by government can build on the Organic Advisory Program through even greater support and by implementing a target of 5% of land area in organic primary production by 2012, said Mr Browning.
Targets in several other countries have allowed significant growth in organics and sustainability benefits, while benefiting huge growth in international and domestic consumer demand for organic products.
For Soil & Health, this week’s launch of the Organic Advisory Program and, in particular, the on-farm Smart Start service are milestones towards an Organic 2020 and a truly sustainable nation.