California is currently the only approved State Organic Program in the United States.
The California State Organic Program is responsible for enforcement of the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 and the California Organic Products Act of 2003. The CA State Organic Program is co-administered by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) for organic producers and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) for processed organic products.
Authority and Responsibility
Authorized under the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, the USDA organic regulations, and the California Organic Products Act of 2003, the California State Organic Program (CASOP) oversees production and handling operations and assumes enforcement authority for organic operations within the state. The SOP contracts with county agricultural commissioners’ offices across the state to conduct enforcement and registration activities.
What Does the CA SOP Do?
- Registration: The CASOP manages new, amended, and renewing registrations. Organic operations in California must register with the state annually.
- Investigations and enforcement actions: Under cooperative agreement between CDFA, CDPH, and County Agricultural Commissioners, the CASOP oversees all organic operations in California; certified and noncertified.
- Spot inspections: Spot inspections primarily focus on registered operations that report annual gross sales below $5,000; as these operations are exempt from certification; certified operations are not exempt from spot inspections. CASOP state and county staff conduct spot inspections of any organically-registered businesses at various points in the supply chain. Most spot inspections occur at growing sites, certified farmers’ markets, retail locations, and processing facilities.
- Appeals: As the only state with an CASOP, California handles appeals through a state-level administrative appeals process. The CASOP also works with counties on mediation and handles settlement agreements for enforcement actions originating in the state.
- Sampling and testing: Administers a Residue Sampling Program, which is an integral part of surveillance designed to ensure the integrity of California organic products. CASOP state staff and county agricultural commissioners’ offices collect plant tissue and soil samples to conduct pesticide residue analysis. The analysis is completed using California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) and NOP sampling protocols.
- Complaint management: The NOP refers the majority of complaints originating in California to the CASOP for investigation. In addition, the CASOP, county agricultural staff, and certifiers investigate complaints when: 1) a positive pesticide residue result is detected; 2) a member of the public submits a complaint; or 3) a county inspector identifies something suspicious during an inspection.
- Civil penalties: The CASOP collects civil penalties from operations that violation of the state organic law.
- Cost Share Program: For operations located in California, the CASOP administers the USDA’s Organic Cost Share Certification Program, which rebates a portion of certification costs back to certified growers and processors.
The USDA organic regulations provide authority for a State Organic Program add more restrictive requirements. In May 2010, the National Organic Program granted the CASOP’s request to require all organic producers, handlers, and accredited certifying agents in the state to be registered. To comply with the CASOP, California producers must register annually and pay a registration fee.
For more information, read PM 11-8: California State Organic Program, Additional Requirements Granted (pdf)