CCOF Publishes Review of the California State Organic Program

ccof logoSince the implementation of the national organic standards in 2002, CCOF members have expressed concerns that the California State Organic Program (SOP) duplicates the fee and reporting requirements of the USDA National Organic Program (NOP). In response to these concerns, CCOF wrote a comprehensive report in 2015 titled Review of the California State Organic Program.

About the Report

CCOF wrote the Review of the California State Organic Program in collaboration with an advisory committee to ensure input from a range of stakeholders, including organic producers, policy experts, and public officials. The committee helped identify the scope of inquiry and reviewed drafts of the report. CCOF also interviewed over 15 diverse stakeholders and reviewed multiple public documents, including laws and regulations that impact certified organic production and marketing. The report outlines the history, structure, budget, and activities of the SOP. It concludes with findings and policy recommendations to address CCOF members’ concerns that the program is out of date and duplicates the national program.

Findings

The Report confirms that California’s SOP is the only state-level enforcement program, which results in unfair, duplicative fees for certified organic operations in the state because it operates at the expense of operations that must pay SOP fees in addition to their certification fees. In contrast, certified producers outside of California only pay a certification fee.

Additionally, the SOP requires additional reporting and compliance requirements beyond what the NOP requires of certified operations outside of California. As a result, California producers pay more fees and comply with more regulatory requirements than producers in other states who market and sell organic product.

Furthermore, the SOP is no longer needed to monitor organic activities in the state, given today’s robust regulatory system. Since the creation of the NOP and implementation of organic standards, organic certification has become a more standardized process with mandatory residue testing, guided enforcement actions, and other requirements as recommended by the National Organic Standards Board. Moreover, California continues to have among the strictest pesticide regulations in the world in addition to other market enforcement mechanisms like the state’s farmers’ market inspection program. Thus, the Report concludes that with so much oversight in place, organic certification and food production in California has outgrown the need for a separate, enforcement-driven state organic program.

Next Steps

California Central Coast Assemblymember Mark Stone (D-Scotts Valley) is working with CCOF and other organic leaders to update California’s state organic law through legislation titled the Fair Organic Farming Act. In 2016, Assemblymember Stone will work to pass the legislation with the support of the organic community. The Fair Organic Farming Act will end outdated, unfair, and duplicative fees on California’s certified organic producers.

Stay tuned for more information on the Fair Organic Farming Act, and email policy@ccof.org to get involved. The Review of the California State Organic Program is now available.