Recently introduced legislation in Sacramento would reimburse farmers for costs associated with transitioning land to certified organic production.

Called the California Transition to Organics Act of 2012, the bill would create a new state Transition to Organics Fund administered by the state Food and Agriculture Department.

Introduced Feb. 9 by Assemblymembers Michael Allen, D-Santa Rosa, and Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, Assembly Bill 1625 would create the fund from federal, industry and citizen sources but not the state General Fund, according to Mr. Allen. The fund would reimburse 25 percent of certification costs, including inspection, certification and registration fees.

Mr. Allen said farmers making the transition already face higher costs for soil amendments and pest control during the three-year required timeframe for certification. He said the fees plus higher production costs during the time when the produce can't be sold at the higher prices for certified products "had the unfortunate effect of discouraging many California farmers from accomplishing their goal of transitioning to certified organic."

Farmers providing false information could face civil penalties.

The California State Grange backs the bill.

“AB 1625 helps California farmers, and I am pleased to support it,” said grange President Bob McFarland in a statement.  “AB 1625 will preserve and create California farm jobs and help California farmers expand their national leadership in organic farming.”

The Assembly Committee on Agriculture is set to consider the bill on March 21.