Accreditation criteria

The Institute of Organic Training and Advice (IOTA) believes that high professional standards are crucial to further develop the organic industry.

IOTA offers Accreditation to both advisers and trainers working in the fields of organic farm business management and husbandry and in organic food supply, processing and marketing. Accredited advisers and trainers may use the term “IOTA Accredited Member” in recognition of their expertise.

Applicants seeking Accreditation are assessed on their general expertise in organic farming and their in-depth understanding of their chosen specialisations. Accredited Members are required to demonstrate their competence in delivering high standards of service to their clients.

Trainee advisers and trainers and others may subscribe to IOTA and receive all the facilities and services but may not use the term ‘Member’ or ‘Accredited’ until such time as they become Accredited.

It is an IOTA objective to ensure that the Accreditation process meets the needs of others in the industry including DEFRA and OCW in the UK. Applications from advisers and trainers will be assessed on the basis of:

  • A CV,
  • Three references – at least two from farmer clients and one other relevant professional reference,
  • At least two satisfactory organic reports (made anonymous) prepared during the last 24 months, preferably linked to the farmer referees,
  • An interview.

If applicants do not completely fulfil the criteria set out below, a mentoring system may be offered, at the discretion of the Review Panel.

1. Criteria for all advisers and trainers

(including those involved with farming, food supply, processing and marketing)

1.1 Qualifications
Higher Education Degree or HND (or equivalent) in Agriculture or a relevant/closely related subject would normally be required, except in exceptional circumstances where the necessary competence can be demonstrated otherwise.

1.2 Training
Advisers should have completed training in consultancy and advisory work. Trainers should have completed training and gained a qualification in training techniques from a recognised body. If qualifications were gained more than five years previously, evidence must be provided of a subsequent CPD programme.

2. Criteria for all advisers

2.1 Personal attributes

  • Energetic and highly motivated
  • Creative and solution orientated
  • Able to work consistently to a high standard
  • Self-reliant, well organised and tenacious
  • Focused on the client
  • Excellent interpersonal skills
  • Effective communication
  • Able to build and maintain relationships
  • Timely delivery: be able to complete assignments within agreed time-scales
  • Flexibility and accessibility: be available to clients and responsive to changes in client requirements
  • Resources: be able to co-ordinate appropriate organisational resources and backup
  • Quality information: be able to provide accurate, beneficial and relevant information
  • Ability to build trust and confidence of clients are a pre-requisite
  • High standard of numeracy

2.2 Adviser competence Advisers need to be able to:

  • Identify key management issues and develop solutions
  • Fully establish, appraise and understand the relative strengths and weaknesses of a farm system in respect to organic management
  • Develop potential strategies and plans to enhance the performance of the farm system
  • Prioritise options, their impact and support or manage overall plan implementation, monitoring and control
  • Manage resources: land, labour and capital
  • Market and purchase relevant products and resources
  • Understand the financial implications of their advice
  • Work with other professionals where appropriate: e.g. nutritionists, organic certification bodies, relevant government agencies etc
  • (If working in devolved countries) demonstrate a knowledge of regional differences in regulations and legislation: e.g. organic standards, agri-environment schemes, other environmental issues, animal welfare
  • Make effective use of information Technology: computers and relevant software

3. Criteria for all trainers

3.1 Personal attributes

  • Excellent interpersonal skills
  • Effective communication skills

3.2 Trainer competence
Trainers need to posses the following abilities and expertise:

  • Knowledge of training techniques
  • Experience of training tools and equipment
  • Good technical knowledge of the subject concerned

4. Criteria for organic farm advisers and trainers

(for those involved with farming)

4.1 Experience
Farm advisers and trainers are required to have:

  • at least one-year’s full-time experience in practical agriculture/horticulture, preferably (but not essentially) on an organic holding
  • a minimum of 15 months’ experience within the agricultural consultancy sector, including a sound track record of organic farming consultancy or training

4.2 Technical expertise
Farm advisers and trainers are required to have a sound, general working knowledge of organic farming, including farming systems and practices, conversion, national and international standards, basic financial implications, grant aid and support schemes and the agri-environmental framework, relevant regulations, wildlife management and environmental impact.

Accredited Members are expected to have a sound, general working knowledge of organic farming, including farming systems and practices, national and international standards, business practice, relevant regulations, wildlife management and environmental impact.

In addition, Accredited Members are expected to have:

  1. excellent technical expertise,
  2. in-depth knowledge of relevant standards, regulations and codes of practice (such as animal welfare and agri-environmental codes of practice), and
  3. basic financial knowledge.

a), b) and c) should be relevant to at least two of the main subject areas below and in an organic farming context. Applicants for Accreditation should ensure they provide concrete evidence of all expertise in the form of farm reports, written articles, certificates, evidence of attendance of training, etc.

Organic subject areas:

ArableHorticultureDairyBeef & sheepPigsPoultryGrasslandMarketingAnimal nutrition – species-specificSoil management & fertilityNature conservationConversion planningBusiness managementOther relevant areas

5. Criteria for food supply, processing and marketing advisers and trainers

(for those involved with organic food supply processing and marketing)

5.1 Experience
Organic food supply, processing and marketing advisers and trainers are required to have the following experience:

  • At least one-year’s full-time experience in the food business, preferably involved with organic food
  • A minimum of 15 months’ experience within the relevant food consultancy sector, including a sound track record of organic food consultancy or training

5.2 Expertise
Food supply, processing and marketing advisers and trainers are required to have the following expertise:

  • A sound working knowledge of their discipline, including practices, relevant regulations, and basic financial implications and a general understanding of organic food and associated health and environmental implications
  • In-depth knowledge of one or more of the main subject areas below, in an organic food and farming context, including:
    1. technical expertise,
    2. relevant standards, regulations and codes of practice,
    3. basic financial knowledge.
  • Food supply and distribution
  • Marketing, sales and promotion
  • Food processing
  • Business management
  • Fair trade
  • Farm retail
  • Other

6. Accreditation for all advisers and trainers

6.1 Accreditation
Applications for Accreditation should be made on the IOTA Accreditation Registration form available here [link to form].

6.2 Provisional Accreditation
If the applicant does not fully meet the requirements of IOTA Accreditation, particularly new advisers who lack the necessary field experience, Provisional Accreditation may be offered at the discretion of the Review Panel. This will entail the adviser being mentored by an appropriate Accredited Member.

6.3 Maintenance of IOTA Accredited status
Accredited members of IOTA are required to adhere to the IOTA Code of Conduct and to operate in a professional and business-like manner. Quality control is maintained through random surveillance of IOTA Accredited Members, which may require the submission of client reports and attendance at interview. IOTA will review Member’s accredited status routinely every four years, involving assessment of client reports or other aspects of the Member’s work and/or conducting an interview.

6.4 Continuing Professional Development
Members of IOTA are required to have a CPD Programme which should include a minimum of 20 hours per year spent in developing their organic advisory and/or training skills and expertise through appropriate reading and attendance of training courses and events. Attendance of at least 2 formal training/updating events is required. Members are further encouraged to regularly attend other training courses, farm walks and organic events to keep themselves up to date with changes in the organic sector. They are required to keep a record of CPD activities attended, which will be submitted to the Institute annually on application for renewal of their Membership.

6.5 Withdrawal of Accredited Membership
The decision to withdraw IOTA Accredited Member status may be made at any time by IOTA. In such cases the Member will be informed in writing of the reasons. The Accredited Membership may be withdrawn in cases where the Member:

  • has failed to observe the undertaking given to abide by the code of professional conduct,
  • ceases to provide his/her services as an adviser or trainer,
  • is involved in any action that may have an adverse effect on the integrity or reputation of IOTA activities,
  • is demonstrated to lack the necessary competence as an organic adviser or trainer.

6.6 Appeals procedure
Advisers or trainers applying for or renewing their Accredited Membership of IOTA, or having their Membership withdrawn may appeal against a decision to refuse Membership where they:

  • disagree with an assessment decision,
  • consider that the assessment process was unfair,
  • consider that not all the evidence was taken into consideration.

An applicant may appeal against a decision by the Review Panel by resubmitting their application to the Review Panel. As a last resort and if there is no satisfactory outcome, the applicant may re-submit their appeal for consideration by the IOTA Steering Group, whose decision shall be final.

An appeal by an applicant must be supported by full written details of the basis of the appeal, including copies of any relevant correspondence and any further supporting evidence or materials.

Appeals from candidates will not be considered unless this information is provided.

IOTA will make every effort to resolve any appeal quickly and will make at least an initial response within 10 working days.

All appeals must be submitted to the Managing Director oft IOTA. (A fee of £100 will be charged if an appeal is being resubmitted to the IOTA Steering Group).

IOTA may contact the parties involved for further information if necessary.

It may be necessary to arrange one or more meetings to resolve the matter. Legal representatives (of applicants or IOTA) will not be permitted to attend such meetings. Travel and accommodation will be at the applicant’s own expense. Attendance fees will not be paid.

If, at any point, any of the parties involved wish to place the matter in the hands of their solicitors, IOTA will make no further attempt to resolve the issue and will wait for legal action to take its course. This does not, of course, prevent any of the parties seeking legal advice.

Final arbitration will rest with the IOTA Steering Group. If the appeal is upheld, any appeal fee will be refunded.

updated 29/4/2014

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