A former Salinas Valley fertilizer maker will spend nearly a year in federal prison for selling bogus product to organic farmers.

Peter Townsley, 50, a Canadian resident, operated California Liquid Fertilizer in Gonzales between 2000 and 2006. At one time, the company was selling about one-third of the organic fertilizer in the state.

Government prosecutors charged that Townsley adulterated his Biolizer XN fertilizer — which contained fish, fish by-products, feathermeal and water — with ammonium chloride and ammonium sulfate, ingredients banned in organic fertilizer.

Townsley pleaded guilty in February to two counts of mail fraud based on his mailing of renewal certifications to a nonprofit group that reviews organic material. He admitted selling $6.5 million worth of adulterated product during a six-year period.

The state Department of Food and Agriculture learned of alleged problems in 2004 from a whistle-blower and ordered the fertilizer off the market in January 2007. Townsley was indicted in June 2010.

He was sentenced Wednesday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco. The court 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.

Townsley was to surrender to the U.S. Marshals Service on Friday to begin serving his prison sentence.

"By cheating and deceiving his organic farming customers, Mr.


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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.

The court ordered Townsley to three years of supervised release after his release from prison. The first six months must be spent in a halfway house, the court said.