Support is growing for hydroponics as an organic production process

Last week, greenhouse grower reported on the ongoing debate over whether hydroponic production should be considered organic. As part of this discussion, the Coalition for Sustainable Organics (CSO) recently joined the Aquaponics Association, Western Growers, International Fresh Produce Association, Mulch & Soil Council and The Scotts Company in filing an amicus brief ( friend of the court) in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The amicus brief asks the court to affirm last year’s ruling by Judge Richard Seeborg of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California which determined that the “continuing USDA certification of hydroponic systems in compliance with all applicable regulations is firmly entrenched in the OFPA”. [Organic Foods Production Act].” Judge Seeborg’s March 19, 2021 ruling upheld the USDA’s longstanding policy of allowing growers using hydroponic methods to be eligible for USDA organic certification.

“Our members work hard every day to make organic products more accessible to more consumers, while adhering to the principle of continuous improvement to make organic production more environmentally sustainable,” says Lee Frankel, Executive Director of the CSO. “Our brief is designed to complement the strong legal arguments made by the Department of Justice on behalf of the USDA.”

In its brief to the Ninth Circuit, the Department of Justice explained how currently certified hydroponic operations meet the requirements of laws and regulations governing USDA organic certification.

The CSO’s amicus brief complements the government’s brief by describing how growers submit organic system plans that are audited by independent, USDA-accredited third parties to document how growers meet organic requirements. The amicus brief also describes growers’ long-term capital investments in organic hydroponic production systems, as well as the large and growing consumer demand for organic hydroponic products.

“We look forward to the organic industry coming together at the end of the call to strengthen the organic community and work to increase accessibility to organic products and improve the resilience of fresh organic supplies, rather than continuing these actions divisive lawsuits that seek to limit competition,” Frankel said. USDA and the Department of Justice in defense of the National Biological Program.”