Politics & Government

California moves to curb organic crop fraud

A bill meant to deter fraud in California's nation-leading organic farming industry is headed to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's desk.

Assembly Bill 856, authored by Assemblywoman Anna Caballero, D-Salinas, targets problems in the organic fertilizer sector, the subject of several Sacramento Bee articles beginning in December.

The bill increases penalties for violations of organic fertilizer standards, expands state regulators' inspection authority and raises as much as $416,000 annually for enforcement through new fees on fertilizer makers.

The Bee investigation revealed that state Department of Food and Agriculture regulators had caught a Salinas-area manufacturer spiking its allegedly organic fertilizer with synthetic nitrogen, which is banned from organic farms. The company, California Liquid Fertilizer, sold its product to packaged-salad giant Earthbound Farm and strawberry powerhouse Driscoll's, among other organic farming leaders.

While California Liquid Fertilizer was ordered to pull its product from the market, it remained in business and was not otherwise penalized.

To read the complete article, visit www.sacbee.com.

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