Historic Update to California State Organic Program Becomes Law, Reducing Duplicative Paperwork and Fees

Governor Jerry Brown Signs California Organic Food and Farming Act

(September 21, 2016) Santa Cruz, CA – Today, Governor Jerry Brown ushered in the next chapter of organic agriculture by signing into law the California Organic Food and Farming Act (COFFA). This legislation marks the first update to California’s state organic law and program in over a decade, bringing about much-needed reform to support the state’s growing organic sector. CCOF sponsored the bill, authored by Assemblymember Mark Stone (D-Monterey Bay), which earned broad bipartisan support in both houses of the California Legislature before receiving Governor Brown’s signature.

“California’s state organic program has helped the state become the global leader in organics, but it has also created some duplicative fees and paperwork for producers. COFFA will help limit those duplications and ensure California remains as a top producer of the high quality organic products enjoyed by consumers around the world,” said Stone.

The updates to California’s state organic program (SOP) are long overdue. For the past several years, the program has operated with millions of dollars in excess funds collected as registration fees from organic producers. Additionally, the program’s registration process requires information that duplicates what producers already report to their United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)-accredited certifier.

COFFA streamlines the registration process by allowing USDA-accredited organic certifying agents to submit registration information for their clients directly to the state. CCOF will implement this process and anticipates saving CCOF-certified farmers hundreds of hours in paperwork every year, especially farmers growing multiple crops.

COFFA also updates the SOP fee schedule. California is the only state that requires certified organic producers to pay state-level registration fees in addition to their federal certification fees. COFFA lowers the fees for very small producers and caps the current fee schedule, with the possibility of future reductions as determined by the California Secretary of Agriculture in consultation with the California Organic Products Advisory Committee (COPAC).

At one time, California had the most comprehensive organic standards in the nation and set the bar for organic certification. Then, CCOF and other organic leaders helped establish federal regulation of organic products through the USDA National Organic Program (NOP). The role of the SOP today is to support NOP’s enforcement of federal organic standards, and COFFA will ensure that SOP processes stay up to date and align with those implemented by the NOP.

COFFA also allows the Secretary of Agriculture and COPAC to support organic agriculture through education, outreach, and other programmatic activities.

“COFFA supports the next era of growth in organic agriculture,” said CCOF Executive Director/CEO Cathy Calfo. “Today, organic is everywhere thanks to the integrity of the USDA label. This legislation gives important relief to producers and will help increase production to meet the tremendous consumer demand for organic products.”

California produces more organic product than any other state in the United States, with over $12 billion in organic product sales annually (comprised of $9.85 billion in processed products and $2.2 billion in farm commodities). Yet organic acreage in California hovers around 3 percent of the state’s agricultural land and cannot produce enough organic product to meet consumer demand. Food manufacturers are importing more product than ever before to capitalize on the booming organic marketplace that has seen double-digit growth almost every year since the 1990s.

COFFA is the first step in supporting the state’s 2,800 organic farmers and laying the groundwork to continue advancing organic agriculture. Learn more at www.ccof.org/coffa.

About CCOF
CCOF advances organic agriculture for a healthy world. We advocate on behalf of our members for organic policies, support the growth of organic through education and grants, and provide organic certification that is personal and accessible.

CCOF is a nonprofit organization governed by the people who grow and make our food. Founded in California more than 40 years ago, today our roots span the breadth of North America and our presence is internationally recognized. We are supported by an organic family of farmers, ranchers, processors, retailers, consumers, and policymakers. Together, we work to realize a future where organic is the norm.

For more information about CCOF visit: www.ccof.org.

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Author: 
Laura Mathias, CCOF Marketing Communications Supervisor
Author contact information: 

CCOF
2155 Delaware Ave, Suite 150
Santa Cruz, CA 95060