The Salinas Valley, Calif., fertilizer maker who admitted to selling $6.5 million worth of adulterated fertilizer and claimed it was organic during a six-year period was sentenced last week to nearly a year in federal prison.
Peter Townsley, a Canadian resident, operated California Liquid Fertilizer in Gonzales, Calif., between 2000 and 2006. His company sold one-third of its products as organic. However, government prosecutors charged Townsley with adulterating his Biolizer XN fertilizer, which contained fish, fish by-products, feathermeal and water. He adulterated the fertilizer by adding ammonium chloride and ammonium sulfate, which are ingredients that are banned in organic fertilizer.
The U.S. District Court in San Francisco sentenced him to 364 days in prison, fined him $125,000 and ordered him to perform 1,000 hours of community service related to organic farming production. Once he released, the court has ordered that Townsley will be ordered to three years of supervised release with the first six months to be spent in a halfway house.
“By cheating and deceiving his organic farming customers, Mr. Townsley took advantage of their trust and undermined the integrity of an entire industry,” said Northern California U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag in a prepared statement.
“His actions are particularly troubling given the fact that consumers rely on the representations of all participants in the process when they pay a premium price for certified organic products,” Haag said.
California’s Department of Food and Agriculture learned of the problem in 2004 and ordered the fertilizer off the market in January 2007. Townsley was indicted in June 2010.