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CDFA wants to streamline reporting regs

Agency issues concept paper, plans webinars and workshops to discuss study.

Tim Hearden, Western Farm Press

May 21, 2024

3 Min Read
Karen Ross (center)
From left, USDA under secretary Jenny Lester Moffitt talks with California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross and State Board of Food and Agriculture Chairman Don Cameron during the state board’s meeting in mid-February. The board was holding its first meeting in conjunction with World Ag Expo since 2020.Tim Hearden

California’s agriculture agency has released a concept paper proposing ways to streamline ag-related food safety and water quality reporting requirements.

The paper is part of a regulatory alignment study led by the state Department of Food and Agriculture in coordination with the California Environmental Protection Agency and the State Water Resources Control Board. Officials said the objective is to reduce paperwork for farmers and ranchers.

Informed by a broad range of interviews and feedback, the proposals presented in the concept paper serve as a foundation and are not final recommendations.

“When I first started, all the meetings that growers attended were at CDFA,” agency Secretary Karen Ross told Farm Press. “Now they’re going before the water board, they’re going to CalEPA. We’ve just tried to work with agronomists and experts from the other agencies” to find ways to streamline compliance, she said.

CDFA’s consultant, Crowe LLP, is requesting feedback on nearly 50 proposals that officials say could streamline reporting processes related to the state’s produce safety, irrigated lands, confined animal facilities and winery regulatory programs.

In May 2023, the CDFA secured $1.3 million from a California Department of Technology modernization fund to develop a Salesforce-based IT program known as the Farm Data Repository, the paper's executive summary notes. This central data repository will be used to house the program’s produce farm inventory and inspections database, with full use anticipated later this year.

Programs governing farms

The produce safety program inspects about 20,000 farms producing $40 billion worth of produce and harvesting over 4 million acres. The CAF program, which seeks to minimize the environmental impact of livestock production, oversees about 1,950 dairy and non-dairy facilities in California.

The winery program, which was pushed for by the wine industry to make the requirements for winery discharges more consistent statewide, governs waste discharges from around 2,100 wineries.

Among the key proposals is to coordinate each program’s reporting, inspection and data collection activities among third parties, CDFA programs and water quality programs.

The proposals in the May 2 paper will inform Crowe’s final regulatory alignment advice to CDFA, CalEPA, and the water board, which is expected in 2025.

“For me, having a third party go through this, it becomes a document we can use for legislators and regulators to educate them about the sheer angst” that growers face in following the rules, Ross said. “Ag is not something you can explain in a 30-second soundbite. If we can take this first step, we’re not trying to dismantle anything, but just to ease compliance and reporting is a way to reduce some of that angst.”

Crowe will hold informational webinars later this month to provide an overview of the Concept Paper, to be followed by a series of workshops. The hour-long webinars are set for 10 a.m. May 29 and 5:30 p.m. May 30, and workshops specific to each regulatory program will be held in June and July. For more information on the webinars and workshops, click here.

Feedback on the concept paper can be given at the workshops or e-mailed to [email protected] by 5 p.m. on July 31.

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