Organic Fertilizer Scandal Widens

January 27, 2009

Last month California Liquid Fertilizer, producer of about a third of California’s “organic” fertilizer, was busted for adding synthetic ammonium sulfate to its product–a chemical explicitly not allowed in organic agriculture. It had been adding the substance for seven years. 

Now there is this piece from the Sac Bee, documenting yet another–even broader–violation of organic standards by a major organic fertilizer producer. It’s an unfortunate hint that organic agriculture’s lack of regulation, as well as its eager push to scale up, may be sowing the seeds of a troubled future. 

By Don Schrack

(Jan. 26, 9:30 a.m.) Another California-based organic liquid fertilizer supplier may be in trouble with federal and state agriculture officials. 

Federal agents searched Port Organic Products Ltd., Buttonwillow, Calif., on Jan. 22, according to an article by the Sacramento Bee. Industry sources, the Bee reported, estimate the company produced up to half of the liquid fertilizer used on the state’s organic farms in recent years.

The GreenPeople Web site and others indicate family owned Port Organic Products is a leading producer of fish-based liquid organic fertilizers. The only company product certified by the Organic Materials Review Institute, Eugene, Ore., according to the institute’s Web site, is Marizyme 4-2-2 Fishilizer. It is identified as a fertilizer containing a variety of ingredients including ground fish. 

The source of the nitrogen in Marizyme 4-2-2 may be the reason for the federal action. TheBee reported it had obtained documents indicating California Department of Food and Agriculture officials suspected in fall 2007 that Port Organic was using synthetic nitrogen. Kern County records reveal the company has in the past three years purchased substantial amounts of aqua ammonia, a source of synthetic nitrogen.

The day after the search at Port Organics, California Certified Organic Farmers, Santa Cruz, an organic certifier, directed organic growers to stop using the company’s products. 

The investigation at Port Organics is the second one reported in recent weeks. In late December, the Bee reported that the agriculture department two years ago ordered California Liquid Fertilizer, Gonzales, to halt distribution of its products after a more than a yearlong investigation. 

When details of the California Liquid Fertilizer order were reported, Miguel Guerrero, marketing director of the Organics Materials Review Institute, told The Packer that the institute was actively pursuing actions against other California firms. 

According to its Web site, California Certified Organic Farmers is working directly with manufacturers and compliance and inspection agencies to ensure that organic regulations are being followed.


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