The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) State Organic Program (SOP) is responsible for enforcement of the federal Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, and the California Organic Food and Farming Act of 2016. These statutes protect consumers, producers, handlers, processors and retailers by establishment of standards under which fresh agricultural products/foods may be labeled and/or sold as "organic".
California Department of Public Health
The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and CDFA work cooperatively to enforce organic regulations within California. CDPH oversees processors and handlers of organic food, pet food, and cosmetics; while CDFA oversees organic agricultural production, milk and dairy food processing, meat and poultry processing, and retail organic production activities.
Cottage Food Operations
All Cottage Food Operations (CFOs) must meet specified requirements pursuant to the California Health and Safety Code related to:
- Preparing foods that are on the approved food list
- Completing a food processor training course within three months of registering
- Implementing sanitary operations
Establishing state and federal compliant labels
- Organic CFOs must also meet National Organic Program (NOP) labeling requirements under 7 CFR Subpart D, sections 205.300 – 205.311.
- Operating within established gross annual sales limits
National Organic Program
The USDA National Organic Program (NOP) organic regulations describe the specific standards that farmers and processors must meet to use the word "organic" or the USDA organic seal on food, feed, or fiber. The NOP accredits and oversees all USDA accredited certifiers.
The NOP also authorizes State Organic Programs, which provides the opportunity for a state to oversee organic production and handling operations within its state. An authorized State Organic Program must assume regulatory enforcement responsibility of the USDA organic regulations for all organic farms and businesses operating within its boundaries. Upon approval by the NOP, State Organic Programs may add more restrictive requirements due to specific environmental conditions or a need for specialized production and handling practices in that State. California is currently the only state in the U.S. with a State Organic Program (SOP).
The CDFA State Organic Program (SOP) does not provide organic certification. Instead, the California State Organic Program oversees and enforces the USDA organic regulations within California.
County Agricultural Commissioners
The SOP contracts with 53 county agricultural commissioners (CACs) who conduct enforcement activities as part of the SOP. As part of the SOP, the counties are authorized to enforce organic regulations on behalf of CDFA. Please contact your local county agricultural commissioner's office for more information on local organic enforcement activities in your county.
Accredited Certify Agents
USDA Accredited Certifying Agencies (ACAs) are responsible for certifying organic operations in California. All ACAs must register with the SOP to conduct certification activities in the State. Additionally, CDFA collaborates with 30 ACAs operating in California for enforcement activities.
For more information on requirements for organic processors, visit the CDPH Food and Drug Branch Organic Food Processors website.