Hydroponic, aquaponic and aeroponic growers can earn organic certification, according to a recent clarification from the USDA.
The United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) on January 25, 2018, clarified some longstanding issues for the National Organics Program, announcing that such operations allowed under USDA organic regulations and always have been.
The announcement follows a recommendation from the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). “The NOSB has recommended prohibiting aeroponic systems in organic production,” AMS added in its January announcement. “USDA will consider this recommendation; aeroponics remains allowed during this review.”
All three techniques involve growing crops without soil, also called hydroculture. Hydroponics involves growing plants with mineral nutrients in a water solvent, while aeroponics involves growing crops in a misting environment. Aquaponics involves growing crops in tandem with farmed fish that supply nutrients for plants. Hydroponics and aeroponics are used by large-scale greenhouse growers and urban vertical farmers.
A DIVIDED HOUSE
Organics growers have been divided on whether soilless cultivation is good for the national organic brand, and a debate has raged for eight years while the NOSB and USDA officials gathered information, conducted listening tours and heard testimony. The information gathering most recently included the NOSB’s October 24, 2017, meeting.
For eight years, laws were in place, but different parts of the industry interpreted the laws differently, and the USDA didn’t rush to clarify the issue.
Younger hydroponic growers like Pierre Sleiman have spent their whole careers hearing and participating in the back-and-forth discussions. He’s CEO of Go Green Agriculture, a company he founded in 2009 as a college student. Go Green grows produce inside high-tech greenhouses near San Diego, California.
“The NOSB in 2010 had come out with a negative recommendation to hydroponics, which the USDA did not adopt; they felt they needed more information,” Sleiman said. “And they assembled the hydroponics task force, which, I was one of the members of, that put together a large body of information for the USDA to evaluate. It’s been about two years since we did that. And then the NOSB quite recently took that information and came to the USDA with a recommendation that hydroponics should continue to be organic, and now the USDA has officially come out and said that is true.”
Click here to read the full article at Vegetable Growers News.