Responding to member concerns, CCOF is sponsoring a bill, AB 1870, that will streamline the oversight of organic food processors by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to increase efficiency and transparency.
Authored by Assembly member Mark Stone (29th Assembly District) and co-authored by Senator John Laird (17th Senate District) and Assemblymember Marc Levine (10th Assembly District), the legislation builds on the California Organic Food and Farming Act, sponsored by CCOF in 2016, that streamlined how the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) regulates the organic farming and ranching sector. State oversight of organic production and sales is divided between CDFA, which regulates farmers and ranchers, and CDPH, which regulates processors and handlers.
The California Organic Products Advisory Committee (COPAC) and organic food processors have identified four areas of concern with CDPH’s oversight:
1. Outdated, paper-based state registration procedures are time-consuming and susceptible to lost documents. They create obstacles to registering in a timely fashion.
2. Decentralized forms make the registration process unnecessarily difficult to navigate. To obtain a valid organic registration, processors must obtain a Processed Food Registration or any of seven separate registrations (depending on the type of business) and must register each facility separately.
3. Unclear agency reporting of program costs and fee revenues makes it difficult to assess the true cost of the program and the degree to which fees benefit the businesses that pay them.
4. A backlog of open complaints, despite the statutory requirement to resolve complaints within 90 days.
CCOF’s bill addresses these issues by
1. prioritizing development of an online registration process and payment option;
2. developing a single application that gathers basic contact and production information and that links to all other necessary forms;
3. requiring CDPH to provide a transparent breakdown of organic program expenditures and receipts; and
4. creating a process to resolve complaints within the 90-day deadline and a procedure for clearing complaints that cannot be resolved within that time frame.
So far, 27 organic businesses have signed on as supporters of the bill. The CCOF policy team invites other businesses to add their support. For information on how to engage, contact Jane Sooby, senior outreach and policy specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (831) 425-7205.