Get a refund for organic certification fees

Here in the Golden State, “organic” is a label that must be earned – but for farmers, processors and related businesses who have done the work and earned the right to use that label, there’s a way you may be able to get a refund for certain certification/registration fees.

In the state of California, a farmer, retailer and/or business can’t just say their products are organic. The organization also must register with the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) State Organic Program (SOP) to earn a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Organic Seal. The seal not only expresses the company’s commitment to a healthier planet, it also lets consumers know they’ve met the USDA’s stringent organic certification standards.

The certification does come with a price, though – and that’s where the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program comes in.

In an effort to make the USDA Organic Seal more accessible, the federal government has created a reimbursement opportunity for organic producers and handlers called the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program (NOCCSP).

The program helps farmers and processors afford the expense of organic certification/registration through an annual refund, with an emphasis on small organic operations that may not have been able to afford the certification costs before.

Producers and handlers that are USDA Organic Certified support local economies. They can access additional technical assistance and receive a higher premium for their products.

The operations that meet the federal eligibility requirements for NOCCSP can be reimbursed up to 75 percent of their certification/registration costs, with a maximum of $750 per National Organic Program (NOP) scope of organic certification.

Businesses are encouraged to apply regardless of size or need, as it helps ensure the future of programs such as NOCCSP that benefits smaller organic operations.

If your operation is located in the United States and you received organic certification between October 1, 2017 and September 30, 2018, you may apply and receive one reimbursement per scope of certification. You will also be eligible for additional refunds if your operation has more than one certification scope.

Eligible scopes include: crops, wild crops, livestock, processing/handling, and California State Organic Program and California Department of Public Health Organic Processed Product registration fees (for operations located in California).

You must collect and complete the following documents:
• Federal Organic Cost Share application (ORG-106)
• California State Organic Program Cost Share application (ORG-106a)
• Payee Data Record Form (STD 204)
• Copy of your organic certificate
• Proof of payment – CCOF offers a Verification of CCOF Certification Costs (allow 14 days for CCOF to complete your request)

At this time, online applications are not being accepted. Businesses must mail applications to:
California Department of Food and Agriculture
Organic Cost Share Program
ATTN: Sharon Parsons
1220 N Street
Sacramento, CA 95814

You can download the necessary documents here:

Applications for a reimbursement through the National Organics Certification Cost Share Program must be postmarked by October 31, 2018. For assistance, California applicants can contact Sharon Parsons at or (916) 900-5202.

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Science and can-do spirit intersect impressively in Southern California pest programs

Secretary Ross with Medfly Preventative Release Program supervisor Ian Walters on the tarmac at the Joint Forces Training Base in Los Alamitos.

A trip to Southern California this week was a welcome reminder of the remarkable work our employees do to protect us from threats posed by invasive species.

My first stop was the joint CDFA/USDA Medfly Preventative Release Program in Los Alamitos. Every day small airplanes fly over the Los Angeles Basin and release millions of sterile Medflies that are reared at the Los Alamitos location and loaded up at an adjacent air strip. The sterile flies have a simple mission – locate any wild Medflies in the environment and mate with them. As Medflies mate just once, the steriles disrupt the pest’s life cycle. The program has been effect for nearly 25 years and has brought a dramatic reduction in the number of Medfly infestations in California.

Secretary Ross with ACP/HLB program manager Magally Luque-Williams at a Southern California property where the tree in the foreground was removed due to HLB.

Another project housed at Los Alamitos is emergency response for Asian citrus psyllid/Huanglongbing (ACP/HLB) detections in Southern California. This program is critical as we continue our work to protect California’s heritage citrus trees at residences and in commercial orchards. I was able to view ACP treatment, HLB tree removal, and delimitation work. It was all enlightening and it left me feeling grateful for the professionalism of our staff and the cooperation and goodwill of the community where all these activities take place.

A great example of that goodwill came near the end of the day – two young children at a house where our crews were working came out with a thank you note and a big hug!


The Los Alamitos programs have been headquartered for years in a complex of aging trailers. The dedication and can-do spirit of our staff is the secret to our success there. There is an absolute need for a modernized facility!


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New tariffs from China pressure farm exports – from Ag Alert

By Ching Lee 

In the escalating trade conflict between the U.S. and China, more California agricultural products now face new retaliatory tariffs in one of their export markets.

China has implemented a new round of tariffs on $60 billion worth of U.S. goods, including a wide range of foods and agricultural products. The tariffs came in response to new U.S. duties on $200 billion in Chinese imports.

The new Chinese tariff rates are 5 percent and 10 percent, and target farm products such as wine, cotton, cut flowers and other nursery products, frozen fruit and vegetables, honey, olive oil, canned peaches, fruit juices, wood and other forestry products, and various processing-tomato products including ketchup, paste and sauces.

Some products are new to the growing list being hit with retaliatory tariffs, whereas others such as wine are incurring multiple hits with this current round.

U.S. wine previously faced an additional 15 percent tariff in April, when China first imposed tariffs on $3 billion worth of U.S. products in retaliation for new U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. This week, China implemented new tariffs of 5 percent and 10 percent on U.S. wine, sparkling wine and other wine-based beverages. When compounded with existing duties, the new total tax rate will equal 79 percent, the Wine Institute said.

Despite the increased tariffs, U.S. wine exports to China and Hong Kong—90 percent of which are from California—went up 34 percent to $118 million during the first seven months of this year, the institute reported.

“While increased tariffs are challenging, Chinese consumers are clearly attracted to California wines and appreciate the high quality and great diversity of wines from the Golden State,” said Linsey Gallagher, the institute’s vice president of international marketing.

Roger Isom, president and CEO of the California Cotton Ginners and Growers Association, described the increased tariffs on cotton as “devastating” because the state exports 100 percent of its cotton, with the majority going to China. California cotton exports to China were valued at $88.5 million in 2016, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

China imposed a 25 percent tariff on U.S. uncarded and uncombed cotton in July. In this current round, U.S. carded and combed cotton will be assessed a 10 percent tariff on top of an existing 40 percent tariff. Other cotton products from the U.S. also will be taxed 5 percent.

The higher tariffs come at a time when Chinese cotton reserves are depleted and demand is high for the state’s higher-end pima cotton, Isom said.

“Prices on the lint side are very good—or were,” he said. “Once these tariffs started coming out and started being announced, the market has dropped and, more importantly, contracts have been canceled or (there are) no new contracts. We’re sitting on pins and needles as to what’s going to happen.”

Though cotton exporters are looking to alternative markets—California also ships to Europe, Southeast Asia and Mexico—Isom said “those other markets aren’t looking for what we have” or aren’t willing to pay the prices the state’s high-end cotton commands.

He said he’s “very concerned” the tariffs will remain in place past December and into next year, noting that historically when cotton prices become too expensive, buyers turn not only to lower-quality cotton but alternative fabrics such as polyester and rayon.

For crops such as cut flowers, the new tariffs have stalled any efforts to gain additional trade opportunities in China, said Kasey Cronquist, CEO of the California Cut Flower Commission. Though the group completed its second trade mission to China in June and some farms have been establishing business relationships there, he said “the current situation has us in a holding pattern” until the trade disputes resolve.

“We were already facing steep tariffs into China and don’t have so much trade going into China,” Cronquist said.

Ismael “Mel” Resendiz, a flower grower in San Diego County who specializes in proteas, was part of the commission’s trade mission and described China as “a big potential opportunity for our business.” Because China’s climate and soil are not well suited to growing the type of exotic flowers he produces, buyers there want his products, he said.

“It was a huge opportunity to expand our business in China, but with whatever is going on right now, looks like it’s not going to happen,” Resendiz said.

For now, he said he will focus on his existing export markets, including Japan, Canada and South Korea, which he described as “really good and growing.”

For the 30 timber companies in California, the ongoing trade disputes and tariffs have been “a mixed bag,” depending on the type of wood they produce, said Rich Gordon, president of the California Forestry Association. A wide range of wood products now face a 10 percent tariff going into China. He said a couple of companies that had orders pending to China reported canceled sales due to the new tariffs.

“China is not buying California timber,” Gordon said. “The Chinese said, ‘We’re not going to buy American products right now.'”

Because wood is not perishable and can be stored, he said some companies will “hold onto product and see what happens to the markets.”

Meanwhile, shelled almonds and fresh sweet cherries have been added to the commodities eligible to receive direct payments under the Market Facilitation Program, part of a three-part, $12 billion aid package meant to help U.S. farmers directly affected by retaliatory tariffs. Previously, payments were available only to producers of soybeans, sorghum, corn, wheat, cotton, dairy and hogs.

See the original post on the California Farm Bureau Federation site here.

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Denmark inspires US delegation with biogas energy innovation

Delegation members at the Mansson Biogas Plant in Brande. Dr. Joshi from CDFA is 2nd from right.

By Geetika Joshi, PhD

I was honored to represent CDFA last week in Denmark as part of a US delegation sent to learn about he use of biogas as a renewable energy source.

I joined a contingent of 14 people from all over the US, and we traveled to a number of cities to study successful digester projects generating biogas and utilizing materials like animal waste and food waste. One plant, in the Danish city of Brande, is the largest biogas plant in the country and produces fertilizer products from that are certified for use in organic farming operations

In the city of Aarhus, the US Delegation met with several companies that shared case studies of successful digestion biogas projects within and outside of Denmark. Their experiences underscore the importance of integrated research and development with real-world operations. This was a recurring theme that we encountered during our trip.

The delegation and digesters at the Midtfyn Biogas Plant in Ringe, Denmark

We also met with Inbiom, an innovation cluster funded by the Danish Ministry of Education and Science. They shared with us their innovative approach of optimizing biomass use. We learned that some of the best uses of biomass are considered in terms of their socio-economic value. In the context of agriculture, this idea was apparent in the emphasis of the Danish technologies on nutrient recovery after the capture of biogas from animal manure and other waste streams. We observed this in action at the biogas plant at Aarhus University, which is one the largest research-scale biogas plants in the world.

We had the opportunity to observe a novel food waste separation method that enabled the separation of plastics, metal, glass and rocks from food waste. Each of these separated materials are recycled and the remaining food materials form the feedstock for biogas production. This process resulted in a significant reduction  of unusable waste – lowering the number to about 10 percent, an impressive achievement that further showcases the high efficiency and Danish emphasis on the circular economy.

The Orsted Bioenergy Plant at Kalundborg

Our activities ended with a workshop with Danish subject matter experts to brainstorm over key challenges for biogas production in the United States, including financial risk, optimizing for mixed waste streams (co-digestion), and handling of manure on agricultural operations. The latter was of particular interest due to California’s goal of reducing methane emissions from dairy and livestock operations by 40% of 2013 levels by 2030. We worked together to think of potential next steps for some of the challenges we might encounter.

As we bade farewell to Denmark, I could not help but admire the Danish commitment to biogas-based energy security and nutrient cycling. Their approach to large problems follows the ‘quadruple helix’ approach – requiring holistic coordination between government, industry, academia and communities to find comprehensive, long-term, sustainable solutions.


Dr. Geetika Joshi is a Supervising Senior Environmental Scientist who manages CDFA’s Dairy Digester Research and Development Program and its Alternative Manure Management Program – both housed in the Office of Environmental Farming and Innovation. 

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Meet the newest recruits in California’s war on climate change: carbon farmers – from CALmatters

By Alistair Bland / CALmatters

Loren Poncia of Marin County is one of dozens of California carbon farmers—participants in a promising state effort to suck climate-threatening carbon out of the air. Photo by Alastair Bland for CALmatters

Loren Poncia’s idling pickup shudders in a powerful gust of afternoon wind in western Marin County. Inside the warm cab, he scans the sun-browned hills through his binoculars, counting his grazing cows. Poncia raises beef cattle. As he sees it, though, what he is really doing is raising soil.

“I’m growing grass to feed to my cattle, but it all comes down to having high-quality soil,” said Poncia, who owns Stemple Creek Ranch with his wife, Lisa.

He is among more than 80 farmers now engaged in a state-funded program aimed at increasing carbon concentrations in California’s soil. Part of the state’s overarching goal of curbing greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate climate change, the California Healthy Soils Initiative took effect a year ago, when the state’s cap-and-trade program made $7.5 million available in small grants to farmers like Poncia. This year, the Healthy Soils Program, one component of the initiative, is receiving about $15 million.

That money is used to encourage and implement carbon farming—the buzz term for any strategic agricultural practice that helps suck carbon atoms from the air and into plant tissue and the ground faster than carbon cycles back out. Over time, the process creates rich, carbon-black soil. A  growing community of scientists now believe carbon farming will be essential in helping curb global warming trajectories.

Participating farmers add heavy layers of compost to invigorate plant growth while avoiding tilling, which exposes raw soil to the air and allows carbon atoms to bond with oxygen and float off as carbon dioxide, a potent greenhouse gas. More than half of the Earth’s historic soil carbon has been released into the atmosphere by unsustainable farming, according to researchers in the field, and the mission of California’s new policy is to put some of that carbon back in the ground.

Farmers receiving Healthy Soils funding are now working about 8,600 acres.

“But we need to do this at a mass scale—we need hundreds of thousands of acres engaged in this,” said Torri Estrada, executive director of the Carbon Cycle Institute, a Petaluma-based climate solutions think tank.

The top roughly 8 inches of U.S. cropland and grassland soils five years ago contained more than 18 billion tons of carbon, according to a paper in the Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. The authors, including Ohio State University soil scientist Rattan Lal, found that U.S. carbon farming eventually could lead to annual carbon sequestration of 83 million tons per year on agricultural soils. Given all available lands in the country, including forests, as much as 475 million tons of carbon could be put into the ground each year.

That’s significant, if not huge: California alone emitted 472 million tons of CO2 equivalent (CO2 isn’t the only greenhouse gas) in 2016, according to the state’s Air Resources Board.

In an interview, Lal acknowledged that although “U.S. soils can technically achieve this,” even modest carbon sequestration goals may be a long shot for the United States, politically.

Estrada says it’s reasonable to expect well-managed pasture land to sequester half a ton of carbon per acre per year. By that formula, a farmer with 1,000 acres of land could potentially offset the carbon dioxide emissions of 500 active vehicles. Statistically significant changes in soil carbon levels, however, can take decades to appear.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture, which manages the soils program, has handed out carbon farming grants to growers in more than 30 counties, including some conservative ones where climate science skepticism may be relatively common.

But Paul Kjos, agricultural commissioner of Shasta County said he doubts regional participation rates will be politically influenced.

“Some farmers have very strong political views, but I don’t think they would ever avoid doing something that’s good for their land just because it might also politically benefit someone else,” Kjos said.

Thaddeus Barsotti, co-owner of Capay Organic farm in the Sacramento Valley, said he believes human activity causes planet warming. But he isn’t sold on the state’s carbon farming program. He said his soil’s carbon levels are already increasing.

“If we want to maximize the amount of carbon in soil and produce food, there is no need to coin a fancy new term,” Barsotti said. “That method exists—it is certified organic agriculture.

“If getting as much carbon into the ground becomes your entire focus, you can’t also grow vegetables. Ultimately, these methods of farming they’re promoting make it more expensive to grow food.”

Though it’s still early in Poncia’s carbon-farming run, this so far seems to be the case. He said the out-of-pocket cost of creating his enormous compost reserves, which he has amassed on a hilltop, was almost $60,000—double what his three-year state grant will cover. Still, he’s gambling that spreading the fertilizer over his land will eventually result in more forage, more beef and more profit.

As the Healthy Soils Program enters its second year, proponents say the state is under-funding it. Estrada contends incentives should be $80 to $100 million.

“It needs to be on par with other programs,” he said. “Carbon farming is one of the pillars of the governor’s climate strategy, and it gets far less money than the other sectors.”

This could change with time, said Jenny Lester Moffitt, the undersecretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. “As this program builds and gets more support, I imagine the Legislature will respond and offer more money to the program,” she said.

At Stemple Creek Ranch, Poncia stands in the whipping wind, admiring his mountainous compost heaps. One is composed entirely of uprooted apple trees—debris that otherwise would be burned.

“This is mostly carbon, and it’s going back in the ground,” he said.

His enthusiasm for carbon farming is rooted largely in the ecological benefits that may come with restoring soil carbon. He has, for instance, planted native trees along a small creek gully.

“There’s carbon being sequestered here and there’s 35 species of birds that nest here,” he said. “So, we’re creating amazing habitat at the same time that we’re carbon farming.”

He also believes in the theory—that eventually he will be making more money. In fact, he plans to forge ahead, with or without state funding. He said he hasn’t spent any of his grant money, and he might even withdraw from the Healthy Soils Program.

“They require that you put compost on the same pasture each year for three years, and that’s a real pain, and I don’t believe it’s necessary, so I might just pull out,” he said.

Still, he is eager to see more government programs that support climate-friendly farming.

“What I really think would be awesome is if the federal government went from subsidizing corn and soybeans and rice to subsidizing carbon, assuming we could find a really good measuring tool for soil carbon,” he said. “The thing is, farmers always overproduce everything, and if we subsidized carbon, they would overproduce carbon. That would be the quickest, simplest, easiest way to help reverse the effects of global warming.”

See the original Post on the CALmatters site here.

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“Farm to Table Talk” podcast with Secretary Ross celebrates the progress of the Farm to Fork movement

When 70,000 people showed up last weekend to celebrate “Farm to Fork” at an annual festival in Sacramento, it was an opportunity for Farm to Table Talk podcast host Mark Wasson to sit down with three pioneering leaders of Farm to Fork: California Agriculture Secretary  Karen Ross; Chef and Owner of Mulvaney’s B & L Patrick Mulvaney; and Michael Dimock, President of Roots of Change. The panel discussion carries on as thousand of city residents can be heard in the background enjoying the sights, sounds, tastes and presentations of a region that is proud to be the Farm to Fork Capital.

CDFA Secretary Karen Ross on the importance of the Farm to Fork movement in California:

“We have forty million consumers in this state who are voters and eaters and neighbors, and we have seventy-seven thousand farms. We need partners. Nothing happens without partnership, collaboration and community… It’s how we bring everyone together around something so fundamentally essential to how we live, and live better, and live in a way that’s good for the earth, good for the economy, good for every person who works in the system.”

See the original post on the Farm to Table Talk site here:

Farm to Fork Festival — Michael Dimock, Patrick Mulvaney, Karen Ross

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Secretary Ross, Senator Lara help unveil revamped digester facility at Open Sky Ranch Dairy

A photograph of CDFA Secretary Karen Ross touring an open-sided dairy cow barn at Open Sky Dairy in West Fresno with dairyman Eric TeVelde and Senator Ricardo Lara.

CDFA Secretary Karen Ross tours Open Sky Ranch Dairy in West Fresno with dairyman Eric TeVelde (left) and Senator Ricardo Lara. Today’s unveiling of the dairy’s revamped digester facility puts the farm on the cutting edge, with a biogas recovery and power generation system. CDFA’s Dairy Digester Research and Development Program funded approximately half of the project’s cost with a grant of $973,430.

From left: CDFA Secretary Karen Ross with dairyman Eric TeVelde and Senator Ricardo Lara, touring Open Sky Ranch Dairy.

Cow Power indeed! Senator Ricardo Lara and CDFA Secretary Karen Ross saw first-hand how Open Sky Ranch Dairy’s newly revamped digester and power generation system are ready to produce approximately 6.4 million kilowatt-hours of renewable electricity per year.

Posted in Climate Change, Climate Smart Agriculture, Dairy | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Decades-long Pink Bollworm quarantine lifted in California – Video

Following a Pink Bollworm quarantine and eradication program that endured for more than 50 years, the USDA has lifted regulations for the cotton pest in California. In this video, CDFA examines the history of the program and the innovation that brought it at long last to a conclusion.

Posted in Invasive Species, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

UC plays crucial role for California Ag – from the Western Farm Press blog

By Tim Hearden

In recent years, I’ve had the good fortune to visit and work with some of California’s most successful trade schools and career-technical education programs.

About a year ago, I visited with instructors and students involved with an apprenticeship program at Stockton’s San Joaquin Delta College called ThinkBIG, in which students split their time between classes and work in the service department of a Caterpillar dealership.

I’ve done several projects involving the agriculture and heavy equipment program at Shasta College in Redding, whose dormitory immerses students in the campus’ farming operation. Shasta’s heavy equipment program offers certificates in trades such as welding, equipment operation, and maintenance, which students can use to get jobs in logging, construction, or other industries.

Many argue that programs such as this are the wave of the future, as recent high school graduates become wary of racking up thousands of dollars of debt going to a four-year university and risking not being able to find a job when they earn their degrees.

Highlighting this fear was a 2013 report by economists from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York asserting that only 27 percent of graduates found jobs related to their majors, and only 62 percent of graduates ended up with jobs that required a college degree.

Some commentators point to declining enrollment in many universities’ humanities and social sciences programs as evidence that higher education in the future will be dominated by STEM subjects, such as business and economics, as students seek degrees that will lead to better employment.

If this is the case, I can think of no more practical application of science and technology than occurs in the agriculture departments of land grant colleges, including the University of California. In fact, it’s not an overstatement to say the vast network of Cooperative Extension offices and research facilities operated by the UC has enabled agriculture in the Golden State to survive amid daunting challenges.

Drought? The UC is developing soil maintenance strategies, conducting groundwater recharge trials, and giving growers updated evapotranspiration information so they can manage water stress in trees. Labor shortages? The UC is working on numerous automation projects.

There’s no greater example of the UC’s practical approach than its relationship with the Citrus Research Board, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Among their numerous joint efforts, the UC and CRB are working feverishly to protect the state’s commercial groves from the deadly tree disease Huanglongbing, which has devastated citrus in the U.S. Southeast.

Stephanie Doria, a UC-Davis graduate who is now a staff research assistant at the UC’s Lindcove Research and Extension Center, puts it this way: “It’s very practical — that’s the best thing. We’re producing research that actually helps people.”

For that, growers throughout California, particularly in the citrus industry, are grateful.

Link to story

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Secretary Ross on “Imagine If” podcast discussing climate change with young Northern California rancher

Secretary Ross with 17-year old rancher Bailey Morrell.

CDFA Secretary Karen Ross recently traveled to the Willows area in Northern California to participate in the “Imagine If” podcast, presented by the North American Association for Environmental Education and National Geographic. Secretary Ross met with 17-year-old Bailey Morrell at her parents’ ranch. Bailey has been raising her own cattle since the age of five. On the podcast, Secretary Ross and Bailey discuss their experiences in farming and ranching as well as some of the challenges posed by climate change.

“Meeting Bailey reinforced my deeply-held belief that the future of agriculture is in very good hands,” said Secretary Ross. “This young woman is enormously impressive. She has a genuine understanding of the complex range of agricultural issues and an innovative approach to problem-solving. We can expect big things from her in the years ahead.”

Listen to the podcast episode “What’s at Steak.”

Posted in Agricultural Education, Climate Change | Tagged , , | Leave a comment