California Department of Food and Agriculture Embarks on a Public Process to Define “Regenerative Agriculture” for State Policies and Programs

Background and Talking Points for Our Regenerative Organic Cannabis Community:


As interest in “regenerative agriculture” continues to grow, we are seeing the introduction and evolution of the term in California policies and programs. From references in legislation, to a funding focus in government programs as well as policies promoting local food systems – the term “regenerative agriculture” is now widely used in California, and yet it has not been officially defined by the state.


Understanding the diversity of opinions, the evolving marketplace and the priority of equity and inclusion, the California Department of Food and Agriculture has embarked on an inclusive public process, which places the importance of public input front and center, while providing transparency and engagement opportunities for stakeholders. A definition of regenerative agriculture for California needs to capture the diversity of production, the uniqueness of localities and the innovation of the State’s farmers and ranchers while providing a science-based foundation.

Key Talking Points

  1. Regenerative organic agriculture is relevant to California farmers and processors as a market opportunity. California is the number one organic farming state in the nation, with the most organic farms, acres, and sales. 
  2. Regenerative organic agriculture is a tool to fight climate change and curb the land degradation and pollution caused by pesticides and other toxic farming inputs.
  3. Many studies show a myriad of benefits of organic farming including environmental, social, health, and economic.
  4. Creating a definition of regenerative that starts with organic practices can safeguard against green-washing. The definition should start with organic practices at the baseline.
  5. The definition of regenerative agriculture should be applicable, relevant, and useful while providing measurable and verifiable outcomes.
  6. The results should lead to positive impacts on California’s environmental, social, and economic infrastructures.
  7. Soil health should be a foundational element.
  8. The approach of regenerative is holistic in nature and should not be looked at individually, but from a whole systems perspective.
  9. Regeneration is achieved through system shifts that positively affect climate, biodiversity, soil and water health, farming livelihoods and communities. 
  10. Regenerative organic agriculture improves farm resilience, reduces farm costs, increases farm productivity and profitability, and enhances local food security.

History of Organic Agriculture

In 1995, the National Organic Standards Board defined organic agriculture as “an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles, and soil biological activity.”

In 2002, the National Organic Program defined organic agriculture: as “a production system that…respond[s] to site-specific conditions by integrating cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biological diversity.”

Both definitions above describe organic agriculture as a production system. A systems approach strives to understand how all parts of the system work together. In a systems approach, the farmer will consider how soil, water, plants, animals, insects, bacteria, fungi, and all other parts of the system can interact to cause problems or prevent them. 

Since its beginning, organic agriculture has also been based on the principle of sustainability. Sustainability can be defined as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. In practice, this means that sustainable farming includes a focus on building the soil with farm-generated fertility.

In addition to building healthy soil, successful organic farmers focus on preventing problems, rather than reacting to them. For example, organic farmers prevent insect problems by providing habitat for beneficial insects that keep populations of harmful insects in check.

The organic philosophy is active management to build soil organic matter and enhance biodiversity.