Update from CCOF: Organic farmers celebrate historic update to organic law

On September 21, 2016, 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.

CCOF sponsored and Assembly Member Mark Stone (D-Monterey Bay) authored COFFA to reduce outdated paperwork and fees for the more than 2,500 organic farms, and to increase support for organic agriculture through the California Department of Food and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 at $2.4 billion in 2015. Yet certified organic acreage hovers around 3 percent of the state’s agricultural land, and only about 3 percent of the state’s farms are certified organic.

CCOF members have long identified the California’s outdated state organic program (SOP) registration process as a significant barrier to organic certification.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

The extra paperwork and fees became outdated and duplicative of federal organic certification requirements.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.

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farmers and will help increase production to meet the tremendous consumer demand for organic products by correcting outdated barriers to certification.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. 

Editor’s note: Certification cost share now covers state organic programs—an issue which OTA advocated for in partnership with CCOF.

 COFFA makes the following reforms:

  • COFFA streamlines the SOP registration process by allowing USDA-accredited organic certifying agents to register or renew their farmer clients with the SOP, thereby eliminating duplicative paperwork for the farmers themselves. 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.
  • 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 Secretary of Food and Agriculture in consultation with COPAC.
  • COFFA allows the Secretary of Food and Agriculture and COPAC to support organic agriculture through education, outreach, and other programmatic activities.