California Updates Organic Program

The California Organic Food and Farming Act (COFFA) was signed into law on Sept. 21, the first update to the state’s organic law and program in more than a decade. The new legislation eliminates duplicative paperwork and fees for organic producers who had to report information to both the state organic program and their USDA-accredited certifier.

COFFA streamlines the registration process by allowing USDA-accredited organic certifying agents to submit registration forms for their clients directly to the state, and it updates the state’s organic program fee schedule. California is the only state that requires certified organic producers to pay a state registration fee in addition to the federal certification fees. COFFA lowers the state fee for very small producers and caps the current fee schedule, with the possibility of future reductions.

California at one time had the most comprehensive organic standards in the nation, setting the bar for organic certification, and currently produces more organic product than any other state, with more than $12 billion in sales annually. However, organic acreage in the state is about 3 percent of the agricultural land, and not enough can be produced to meet demand.

COFFA also allows the Secretary of Agriculture and the California Organic Products Advisory Committee to support organic agriculture through education, outreach and other activities. It is the first step in supporting the state’s 2,800 organic farmers and lays the groundwork to continue advancing organic agriculture.

“COFFA supports the next era of growth in organic agriculture,” said CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmers) 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.”

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