Guest Blog: Organic Farmers Celebrate Historic Update to California’s Organic Law

By Kelly Damewood, Policy Director, CCOF

On September 21, Governor Jerry Brown ushered in the next chapter of organic agriculture in California by signing into law the California Organic Food and Farming Act (COFFA). The law marks the first update to California’s organic law and program in over a decade, bringing about much needed reform to support the growing demand for organic agricultural products.

Kelly Damewood
Kelly Damewood

CCOF sponsored and Assemblymember Mark Stone (D-Monterey Bay) authored COFFA to reduce outdated paperwork and fees for the state’s over 2,500 organic farms and also to increase support for organic agriculture through the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) and the California Organic Products Advisory Committee (COPAC).

California is the leader in organic farm sales with $2.4 billion in 2015. Yet certified organic acreage hovers around 3% of the state’s agricultural land, and only about 3% of the state’s farms are certified organic.

CCOF members have long identified the outdated SOP registration process as a significant barrier to organic certification. California is the only state in the nation with a State Organic Program, which is a program that enforces federal organic standards (it is not an organic certifier). As a result, California farmers are the only organic farmers in the nation submitting paperwork and fees to the state in addition to their organic certification paperwork and fees.

The extra paperwork and fees had become outdated and duplicative of federal organic certification requirements. To address these issues, CCOF worked with CDFA and other stakeholders to identify areas of possible reform to the SOP. As a result, COFFA makes the following reforms:

  1. COFFA streamlines the SOP registration process by allowing USDA-accredited organic certifying agents to register or renew their farmer clients with the SOP. This will eliminate duplicative paperwork for organic farmers. CCOF is working with CDFA, COPAC, and other certifiers to develop a process for SOP registration renewals and anticipates saving CCOF-certified farmers many hours in paperwork every year, especially farmers growing multiple crops.
  1. COFFA updates the SOP fee schedule by lowering the fees for some categories of small farmers and caps the current fee schedule, with the possibility of future reductions by the California Secretary of Food and Agriculture in consultation with COPAC.
  1. COFFA allows the Secretary of Food and Agriculture and COPAC to support organic agriculture through education, outreach, and other programmatic activities.

COFFA gives important relief to organic farmers and will help increase production to meet the tremendous consumer demand for organic products by correcting outdated barriers to certification. Learn more at www.ccof.org/coffa or contact policy@ccof.org.

 

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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