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Moving the Needle on Expanding Organic in California

Organic supports climate resilience, economic security, and health equity. CCOF’s goal is to expand the benefits of organic to all of California by transitioning 30 percent of California’s agricultural land to organic by 2030. Currently, just under 10 percent of farmland in California is organic. To reach this target, we took a deep dive into the research on the benefits of organic and how organic can be supported at the policy level. We developed nearly 40 recommendations in our Roadmap to an Organic California: Policy Report. And now, we’re enacting these recommendations.

  • CCOF successfully advanced legislation that allows livestock producers to slaughter a limitless number of goats, sheep, swine, and cattle on the ranch. This opens alternative avenues for ranchers to put meat on their neighbors’ plates, ensures communities have access to food in case of a crisis, and improves ranchers’ financial resilience. Expanding on-ranch slaughter provides livestock producers greater flexibility and market opportunities.
  • CCOF successfully advocated for $5 million in the California state budget to create an Organic Transition Program. We are now working to pass legislation to set guidelines on the structure of this program, including prioritizing financial and technical assistance for underserved farmers. CCOF hopes to remove barriers to entry for farmers who manage their businesses on thinner margins and cannot assume more risk, as well as for farmers of color who have faced historical and current discrimination that limits access to resources and information. The bill also requires a statewide market analysis of the organic sector to help current and future farmers understand the market landscape and expand marketing options.
  • CCOF is running legislation to streamline oversight of organic food manufacturers. California’s organic food manufacturing and processing sector is an economic powerhouse, generating $34.5 billion in sales in 2021, a 133 percent increase from 2020. However, as sales continue to climb, there is a need for more efficient and transparent oversight of organic food manufacturers. CCOF is advancing a bill to update the registration process, address consumer complaints more quickly, and track program revenues and costs. This bill will improve organic food manufacturers’ bottom line and support their ability to meet the ever-increasing demand for organic products.
  • CCOF successfully advocated for organic food in California’s Farm to School Program. This grant program now gives an incentive for schools to buy organic and prioritizes organic producers for grants to cover expenses related to food production, processing, and distribution. Schools often struggle to procure organic foods because of limited resources, strict requirements, and facilities that are not designed for scratch cooking. At the same time, organic farmers can face difficult product requirements and lower prices in the school food market. The Farm to School Program will help provide schools and producers with resources to overcome these obstacles and bring more organic food to lunchrooms across the state.
  • CCOF is pushing for California’s climate policy to include organic as a climate strategy. Organic combats climate change by prohibiting the use of fossil fuel-derived synthetic pesticides and fertilizers and by requiring soil building practices that sequester carbon. At the same time, organic operations are resilient in the face of more extreme weather events. Recognizing these climate benefits, the California Air Resources Board has adopted the goal of transitioning more acreage to organic as part of its climate strategy. CCOF celebrates this win and is continuing to push for greater recognition of organic as a climate solution at state and federal levels.

Our successes would not be possible without organic farmers, ranchers, and processors, as well as partner organizations advocating alongside us. Learn more about the Roadmap to an Organic California project at www.ccof.org/roadmap.

This article was prepared by Rebekah Weber, CCOF Policy Director.

This article was originally published in the Fall 2022 Organic Report, you can view the full magazine here.