Small and Organic Farm Advisor
University of California
Small and Organic Farm Advisor

Laws and Regulations

Certified Producer’s Certificate

This is required by the state if you plan to sell at Farmers Markets. You get this from the Ag Commissioner's office of the county that you are operating in, not where you are selling.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)

You must register your farm with the California Department of Food and Ag (CDFA) each year. CA CSA Law – AB 224 (2013) Requires single-farm or multi-farm CSAs to be farm-based and for all farms involved to register with CDFA each year; CDFA set fee at $75 a year, each farm pays once a year.  By registering, Environmental Health considers the CSA to be an “approved source” of food; federal law requires all food in commerce to be from an approved source. Everything in the CSA box must be from California farms.  

Box must have name and address of CSA on it and maintained in a manner that “prevents contamination of produce.” Traceability records required: consumers must be informed where everything is from either in print or electronically, and the CSA must retain these records.  Shell eggs and processed foods that are included must follow laws on labeling.  If a multi-farm CSA, the operator must have a produce handling license from CDFA, and if handling eggs from other farms, an egg handler license.

Cottage Food Operation

On September 21, 2012, California joined 45 states with Cottage Food laws when Governor Brown signed the California Homemade Food Act into law. This law, implemented January 1, 2013,  creates a new category of retail food facilities known as a Cottage Food Operation (CFO), which will allow persons using home kitchens to make and sell limited quantities of non-potentially hazardous foods. Cottage food products are non-potentially hazardous foods that are unlikely to grow harmful bacteria or other toxic microorganisms at room temperature.

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Farm Stand

Field retail stands are restricted to selling whole produce and shell eggs grown by the producer on or near the site, exempt from standard wholesale size and pack requirements. These traditional field stands are exempt from California Health and Safety Code, as long as they adhere to the previous set of rules.

Produce Scale Certification

If you are using a scale to make sales at a direct-to-consumer sales point, then you need to show that it’s calibrated properly and have it certified at the county Weights and Measures office (department within Ag Commissioner’s Office)



There are federal laws, state laws, county laws, and sometimes even more local laws! There are exceptions, which small producers typically fall under. The state may have exemptions to federal laws, but counties and more local can choose whether to allow those exemptions or not (slaughter, in particular).  Producers should check all levels of regulation. Small scale for layers typically means any flock under 3,000 hens. Small scale for meat birds typically means less than 20,000 birds processed/year. They generally are exempt from federal regulations, and maybe state/county.

CDFA does a great job covering layers and the sale/marketing of eggs ( Anyone who sells eggs (even 1 egg) in the state is required to register as an egg handler (process on the website). It is pretty straightforward, but CDFA does inspect at farmer's markets, and will pull products that don't comply with the regulations.

Meat birds are more difficult. They are also covered by CDFA (, and the regulations depend on where the birds are slaughtered, and/or if they will be considered part of the live bird market. If you don't use a USDA inspected facility to slaughter, there are a lot of restrictions on where you can sell, and there is an example of a state exemption from federal regulations that some counties accept, and some reject. There is a new bill going through the state legislature right now that hopes to clear this up.

It is recommended that you get a secondary liability insurance coverage of $1 million for chicken processing.

Additionally, there are labeling requirements, as well as Shell Egg Food Safety regulations that need to be followed.

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