California Okays On-Farm Compost, Key to Sustainable Agriculture

Sacramento, CA – After more than five years of negotiations, the State Water Resources Control Board issued a historic decision to allow for much-needed composting on California farms. 

“Farmers can now compost more, build healthy soils, and reduce and mitigate greenhouse gases,” said Dave Runsten, Policy Director at the Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF). 

The Compost General Order passed in 2015 presented a regulatory obstacle for on-farm composting, despite the state’s efforts to reduce waste and provide for more ecological farming practices. Composting is among the most important practices for sustainable agriculture, transforming organic byproduct from plants and animals into a rich, natural amendment that reduces the need for synthetic fertilizers. But up until now, even small farms risked regulation better suited for industrial scale composting facilities.

CAFF, a nonprofit organization that serves small- and mid-scale farmers in California, worked with allied organizations to champion these changes through the State Water Resources Control Board. After advocacy from many family farms and advocates for sustainable agriculture, the State Water Board recognized the need to facilitate this essential on-farm service. 

“Local composting is so important for our communities,” said Bob Knight, farmer and owner of Old Grove Orange in Redlands, CA. “This will allow us to repurpose local organic materials to improve soils and sequester carbon. It’s great that government agencies could make this possible, a win-win for everyone.”

As a result of this decision, farmers are now legally allowed to:

  • Make unlimited quantities of compost for their own use—not exceeding 25,000 cubic yards of feedstocks and compost on the farm at any one time
  • Bring on feedstocks from off the farm, including manure
  • Sell or give away up to 5,000 cubic yards of finished compost
  • Implement a set of best management practices in lieu of costly infrastructure
  • Avoid separate registration for making compost

The state has created an on-farm composting working group and CAFF will work with them to disseminate information about the Water Board’s best management practices as well as FDA/National Organic Program rules for making compost.


Contact: Evan Wiig, Director of Communications, or 415-710-5692 


Community Alliance with Family Farmers is a forty-year-old organization dedicated to creating more resilient family farms, communities and ecosystems.