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Sacramento Bee – Two organic certifying agencies plan merger to become nation’s largest

USDA Organic seal

California Certified Organic Farmers and Oregon Tilth, two of the nation’s largest third-party organic certification agencies, are joining forces in hopes of raising the visibility and consolidating the clout of West Coast organic farming.

A merger was approved by the boards of directors of both groups. Members of both organizations will be asked to ratify the merger before Oct. 31. Once approved, the new organization – CCOF Tilth – will be the nation’s largest such group in the $31 billion organic agriculture industry.

Farmers and food processors who currently use CCOF or Oregon Tilth labels on their products will be allowed to continue. A new CCOF Tilth label will be released this fall. The consolidation will affect more than 100 organic farming operations in the Sacramento region, and more than 2,200 statewide.

“The merger will create the strongest mission-driven certification program in the country, supported by a trade association of nearly 4,000 certified farmers, ranchers and processors and a robust educational foundation,” said Cathy Calfo, CCOF executive director.

Chris Schreiner, executive director of Oregon Tilth, said the merger will allow the group to raise awareness of one of the fastest-growing segments of U.S. agriculture.

“Both Oregon Tilth’s and CCOF’s origins date back to the 1970s, amidst growing interest in the benefits of organic farming,” Schreiner said. “We both have deep roots in the organic movement.”

CCOF, a nonprofit organization based in Santa Cruz, was founded in 1973 and is the nation’s oldest and largest third-party organic certification agency. It certifies more than 2,300 organic operations in 34 states and three foreign countries. It also serves more than 350 supporting members, such as consumers, suppliers and businesses, that support its work.

Oregon Tilth, based in Corvallis, certifies more than 1,400 organic operations in 46 states and six countries.

The two organizations have a history of collaboration. During the 1980s, CCOF and Oregon Tilth formed the Western Alliance of Certifying Organizations to ensure integrity and consistency in organic certification.

In the 1990s, the two nonprofits helped form the Organic Materials Review Institute, which determines whether input products are allowed for use in organic production and processing.

During the past decade, organically grown products have become a significant market as consumers have become more concerned about how their food is grown and processed, according to the organizations.

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