Proposal to Reduce Paperwork and Fees for California Organic Producers Leaps First Hurdle in the State Assembly

Assemblymember Mark Stone’s AB1826 Meets Agriculture Committee Approval

(April 21, 2016) Santa Cruz, CA – CCOF-sponsored AB1826—the California Organic Food and Farming Act (COFFA), authored by Assemblymember Mark Stone (D-Monterey Bay)—passed the California Assembly Agriculture Committee in a unanimous, cross-party vote in favor of reducing fee and paperwork burdens on California’s organic producers. The committee’s unified show of support underscores the critical role organic producers play in California’s economy and environment.

“We have a great opportunity through the California Organic Food and Farming Act to put organic producers in a more competitive economic position and to support growth of the organic sector along with its many environmental and economic benefits,” said Stone.

Assemblymember Stone presented COFFA at yesterday’s Assembly Agriculture Committee hearing. Earlier this year, Assemblymember Stone wrote and introduced the bill with sponsorship from CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmers). CCOF’s Executive Director/CEO Cathy Calfo and CCOF-certified organic farmer Thaddeus Barsotti of Capay Organic spoke in favor of the legislation at the hearing, commenting on behalf of CCOF’s membership of over 2,500 certified organic producers and processors in California.

The committee members voiced their support for the bill and California’s organic producers. Assemblymember Devon Mathis (R-Visalia) recognized CCOF’s collaborative efforts within development of the bill, and Assemblymember James Gallagher (R-Plumas Lake) stated his hopes that this bill will set the precedent for streamlining paperwork for all farmers in California.

Several organizations also joined the hearing in person to express support for the bill, including the California Climate & Agriculture Network (CalCAN) and a Farm Bureau representative who expressed confidence in the direction of the bill.

“COFFA’s importance is evident in the overwhelming amount of endorsement we’ve received for the bill,” said Calfo. “We’ve collected over 200 signatures backing the bill, in addition to many of our members and supporters who have sent letters to their representatives on behalf of AB 1826. Passing the Assembly Agriculture Committee today was truly a group effort of all the people and organizations who care about the success of the organic sector.”

Calfo also acknowledged the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s (CDFA) strong commitment to improving the state organic program and supporting organic agriculture.

California’s organic producers are subject to fee and paperwork requirements from the State Organic Program (SOP) that duplicate requirements mandated by the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) without providing any additional level of consumer protection. California is the only state requiring these additional burdens of its organic producers. COFFA would address this outdated structure by allowing certifying agents to submit the fees and paperwork to the state on behalf of organic producers.

“AB1826 levels the playing field for California’s certified organic farmers. Without this bill, we will continue to pay unfair fees and cope with dizzying paperwork mazes that operations in every other state don’t face,” explained Barsotti.

The bill would also update the role of the SOP by allowing the California Secretary of Agriculture and the SOP advisory committee to support organic agriculture through education, outreach, and other programmatic activities.

From here, COFFA will go to the Assembly Appropriations Committee, then to a full vote by the California Assembly. Now is the time to register your support for California’s organic farmers! Visit www.ccof.org/coffa to read more about the bill and send a letter to your representatives.

About CCOF
CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmers) is a nonprofit organization founded in 1973 that advances organic agriculture for a healthy world through organic certification, education, advocacy, and promotion. CCOF is based in Santa Cruz, California, and represents more than 2,900 certified organic members in 42 states and three countries. For further information on CCOF visit: www.ccof.org.

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Author contact information: 

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

Author: 
Laura Mathias, CCOF Marketing Communications Supervisor