News From the Farm | Week of June 10, 2013

CSA members may be interested to know about a bill making its way through the California State Senate that would regulate CSAs for the first time.  Before getting worried, take note that the legislation became necessary because Environmental Health Departments up and down the state became aware of the existence of CSAs and realized that most of the CSAs in California do not have permits and were not regulated in any way.  Since Federal law requires that all food put into commerce must come from an “approved source,” Environmental Health Departments determined that CSAs were not approved sources and started trying to regulate some of their activities.

Luckily, CSA farmers started calling Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) and for the last two years, legislation (AB 224) has been in development with the goal of protecting CSAs from unnecessary interference. In order to do so, the bill had to define CSA, and says (slightly paraphrased), “CSA means a program under which a registered California direct marketing producer, or a group of them grow food for a group of California consumers shareholders or subscribers who pledge or contract to buy, on a prepayment basis, a portion of the crop.”  

Anyone who doesn’t fit into the definition would be considered a food retailer by the health authorities and would have to get a retail food permit. For example if a farm box included products from outside of California, purchased from a wholesaler, or was not farm-based, this definition would indicate that they were not a CSA.

If a CSA is just selling whole produce, shell eggs or processed foods, they would simply have to register with their local authorities, pay a $100 fee, and declare that they are following good agricultural practices (which have yet to be fully defined.) 

The bill passed out of Assembly without any opposition and is now in the Senate where various amendments are being discussed. If you want additional information, the CAFF website home page ( has a link to a good webinar.  Overall, we’re pleased that the rule will circumvent any onerous food safety rules for CSA farmers, and classify them correctly as part of the direct marketing food and farming community.