California’s New Organic Law Now in Effect

On January 1, 2017, the CCOF-sponsored California Organic Food and Farming Act (COFFA) went into effect. This law updates the California State Organic Program (SOP) by streamlining registration for farmers, reducing registration fees for small organic farmers, and making changes to the role of the state’s organic advisory committee.

Improved SOP Registration Process

This year, organic farmers will immediately experience a significantly improved SOP registration and renewal process. Rather than report acreage and sales for each crop grown, farmers will only report six categories of crops and their parcel locations.

Starting in 2018, CCOF plans to implement the provision of the law that allows certifiers to register their farmer members directly with the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). CCOF-certified farmers will no longer have the burden of renewing their state registration annually.

Processors will continue to complete their own annual registration renewals with the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), which is already streamlined into a one-page registration form. By the end of 2017, the SOP will resolve issues that have resulted in confusion about whether a processor is required to register with CDFA or CDPH.

Other Important Changes

In addition to improving the overall registration process, COFFA makes other improvements, including:

  • Farms with gross annual organic sales between $50,001-250,000 will pay lower SOP fees than previously required.
  • The California Organic Products Advisory Committee (COPAC) has added a certifier seat, which will improve coordination between certification agencies and the SOP.
  • COPAC will advise the Secretary of Agriculture on education, outreach, and other programmatic activities to support organic producers in California.

SOP Fees Eligible for Cost Share

In 2016, CCOF also worked with the Organic Trade Association (OTA) to advocate for the eligibility of SOP fees under the National Organic Cost Share Program. In December 2016, the Farm Services Agency (FSA) announced that organic farmers may submit an application for reimbursement of their SOP fees. Eligibility for reimbursement of SOP fees is in addition to their eligibility for reimbursement of their certification fees.

Join CCOF at Upcoming COPAC Meeting

To learn more about these changes and other organic issues, join the CCOF Policy Team at the upcoming COPAC meeting from 1-2:30 pm on Thursday, January 26, at the EcoFarm conference in Pacific Grove, California. COPAC will discuss improvements to the SOP, and members of the public are invited to present oral comments to the committee.