(UPDATED COVERAGE JULY 20) A California vegetable grower who was fined by the state for violations of the National Organic Program is disputing some of those claims, despite agreeing to settle with the state.
According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, which oversees organic regulations in the state for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Valley End Farm, Santa Rosa, violated regulations in 2008 and 2009. The department fined the company $15,000 and placed it on probation until September 2013.
The violations, according to the department, are:
- Selling to community supported agriculture program members non-organic produce labeled as organic;
- Labeling nonorganic produce as “transitional organic;” and
- Failing to provide adequate records to substantiate the sale and production of organic products.
“My client was doing nothing to mislead customers, not one thing,” said Effie Anastassiou, the Salinas-based attorney representing Sharon Grossi, owner of Valley End Farm.
Among the state’s allegations was that produce from one parcel of land was incorrectly labeled transitional organic. Grossi said the words “transitional organic” appeared only on invoices and her customers were made aware of the program, she said.
“Everything that was purchased as transitional was sold as conventional,” Grossi said.
Instigated by a third party auditor, the agency’s investigation began two years ago. The two sides reached an agreement July 2.
Anastassiou said the decision to agree to a settlement was a business decision. More than two dozen witnesses were prepared to testify on Valley End Farm’s behalf, Anastassiou said.
“But I told Sharon it was going to cost a lot of money, that it would be fiscally prudent to settle,” Anastassiou said.
Anastassiou said CDFA’s publicizing the fine has jeopardized the company’s customer base, and she demands the department disclose information on extenuating all aspects of the matter. She has forwarded letters to that effect to a variety of officials including the office of the California attorney general and Food and Agriculture Secretary A.G. Kawamura.