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California CDFA: What category is my product?

Interested in having your fertilizer product registered with California CDFA? If you're not quite sure which category your fertilizer product falls under, this short article is for you! By the end of the article, you will learn how California CDFA defines a commercial fertilizer, specialty fertilizer, agricultural mineral, auxiliary soil and plant substance, organic input material, and packaged soil amendment. You will also be able to take the first step in registering your fertilizer product with California CDFA by determining what category your product falls into.

Before we get started, here is my #1 piece of advice after years of working with California CDFA. It doesn't matter what you think a word means or what you think a fertilizer ingredient does (or what it actually does). The only thing that matters when registering your product label is 1. What the laws and regs say and 2. What is California CDFA's "official" definition of a word or "official" use of an ingredient. Remembering this will save you lots of time, money and frustrations.

Now, lets get started with some definitions! California CDFA defines each product category as follows:

  • “Commercial fertilizer” means any substance which contains 5 percent or more of nitrogen (N), available phosphoric acid (P2O5), or soluble potash (K2O), singly or collectively, which is distributed in this state for promoting or stimulating plant growth. “Commercial fertilizer” includes both agricultural and specialty fertilizers. “Specialty fertilizers” may contain less than 5 percent nitrogen (N), available phosphoric acid (P2O5), or soluble potash (K2O), singly or collectively.

  • “Organic input material” means any bulk or packaged commercial fertilizer, agricultural mineral, auxiliary soil and plant substance, specialty fertilizer, or soil amendment, excluding pesticides, that is to be used in organic crop and food production and that complies with the requirements of the National Organic Program standards.

  • “Packaged soil amendment” means any substance distributed for the purpose of promoting plant growth or improving the quality of crops by conditioning soils solely through physical means. It includes all of the following: (a) Hay. (b) Straw. (c) Peat moss. (d) Leaf mold. (e) Sand. (f) Wood products. (g) Any product or mixture of products intended for use as a potting medium, planting mix, or soil less growing media. (h) Manures sold without guarantees for plant nutrients. (i) Any other substance or product which is intended for use solely because of its physical properties.

  • “Specialty fertilizer” means packaged commercial fertilizer labeled for home gardens, lawns, shrubbery, flowers, and other similar noncommercial uses. These products may contain less than 5 percent nitrogen (N), available phosphoric acid (P2O5), or soluble potash (K2 O), singly or collectively, detectable by chemical methods.

  • “Agricultural mineral” means any substance with nitrogen (N), available phosphoric acid (P2O5), and soluble potash (K2O), singly or in combination, in amounts less than 5 percent which is distributed for farm use, or any substance only containing recognized essential secondary nutrients or micronutrients in amounts equal or greater than minimum amounts specified by the director, by regulation, and distributed in this state as a source of these nutrients for the purpose of promoting plant growth. It shall include gypsum, liming materials, manure, wood fly ash, sewage sludge not qualifying as commercial fertilizer, and captured dilute solutions.

  • “Auxiliary soil and plant substance” means any chemical or biological substance or mixture of substances or device distributed in this state to be applied to soil, plants, or seeds for soil corrective purposes; or that is intended to improve germination, growth, yield, product quality, reproduction, flavor, or other desirable characteristics of plants; or that is intended to produce any chemical, biochemical, biological, or physical change in soil; but does not include commercial fertilizers, agricultural minerals, pesticides, soil amendments except biochar, or manures. It shall include the following: (a) Bacterial inoculants. (b) Biotics. (c) Lignin or humus preparations. (d) Microbial products, including genetically engineered microorganisms. (e) Soil binding agents. (f) Synthetic polyelectrolytes. (g) Wetting agents to promote water penetration. (h) Any similar product intended to be used for influencing soils, plant growth, or crop or plant quality, including biochar.

If you have questions or need advice on how to register your fertilizer product with California CDFA, I'd love to help!

Click HERE to schedule a FREE 30-Minute consultation!

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