California Department of Food & Agriculture & State Organic Program

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California was one of the first states to regulate organic products with Organic Food Act of 1979. In 1990, California amended the law to require organic operations to register with the state and pay an annual registration fee. Also in 1990, the federal Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 (OFPA) was signed into law, creating uniform regulation of organic sale and labeling of agricultural products as organic. Under the federal law, states could establish their own State Organic Program (SOP). California’s SOP was approved in 2004 and is currently the only state with an SOP.

State Organic Program (SOP)

In 2003, the California Department of Food & Agriculture (CDFA) requested that the National Organic Program (NOP) approve a California SOP. California’s SOP was approved a year later. An SOP may have more restrictive requirements than the national organic standards for producers operating in their state, but more restrictive requirements must be based upon a compelling environmental condition or the necessity of specific production or handling practices particular to the state or region of the U.S. and approved by NOP.

California’s SOP has four additional requirements:

  1. Organic producers and handlers must register with their county agricultural commissioner;
  2. Organic processors must register with California Department of Public Health (CDPH);
  3. Organic producers, processors, and handlers must provide verification of SOP registration to their accredited certifying agent prior to granting or continuing organic certification; and
  4. Accredited certifying agents must register with CDFA and pay registration fees.

All businesses marketing organic products in the state of California must register and pay a registration fee to the SOP. The SOP works with the NOP’s compliance division, and the NOP relies on the SOP to investigate all complaints, perform spot inspections, and conduct periodic residue sampling in California.

CCOF brought much-needed reforms to the SOP with the passage of the California Organic Food and Farming Act (COFFA).

California Organic Products Advisory Committee (COPAC)

The California Organic Products Advisory Committee (COPAC) is an advisory committee that advises the California Secretary of Agriculture on California’s SOP. COPAC meets throughout the year and advises the SOP on a wide array of topics. COPAC:

  1. Reviews CDFA and CDPH reports on their organic enforcement activities,
  2. Makes recommendation to the Secretary on how to enhance organic enforcement,
  3. Informs the Secretary of trends in the organic industry and changes in organic food laws, and
  4. Reviews the budget for the CDFA side of the SOP and recommends approval by the secretary.

COPAC is comprised of 15 members who represent farm and livestock producers, processors, wholesale distributors, consumers, environmental interests, technical representatives with scientific credentials, and retailers. Each member has an alternate, creating 30 available positions on the committee.

Members of COPAC are appointed by California’s Secretary of Agriculture to three-year terms (some appointments are two years to stagger terms). Any member may serve for two consecutive terms. After taking a year off from COPAC, former members are eligible to reapply for vacant seats. Those interested in a position on COPAC must fulfill the requirements in California Organic Products Act of 2003 code, section 46003 and must complete COPAC’s prospective member appointment questionnaire.

For more information on California’s SOP and COPAC, please see CCOF’s Review of the California State Organic Program.