- The National Organics Standards Board decided not to vote on whether produce grown on hydroponic and similar systems could be classified as organic at its meeting last week, according to The Packer. Furthermore, there likely won’t be action or a vote anytime in 2017.
- The NOSB held a three-day meeting in April to talk about whether or not members should vote on this important issue, following a halted vote in November.
- A vote on the issue by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's advisory board is expected sometime next year.
Some fiery debate occurred at the National Organic Standards Board meeting this year, and much of it was about whether to require organic crops to be grown in soil — not hydroponically. The issue was supposed to be voted on last November, but members was decided to hold off until spring so that proper due diligence could be done on the issue.
Last week, the subcommittee responsible decided that now was not the time to vote on the issue. Now, growers who marker organic greenhouse bell peppers, tomatoes and other vegetables grown on hydro- and aquaponic systems are still in limbo about whether their certification will remain.
Lee Frankel, executive director for the Coalition for Sustainable Organics, told The Packer that NOSB members felt the issue so fundamental to the organics industry, the subcommittee wanted more parties participating in the policy-developing process.
Whether soil is integral to organic crops is an issue that has been plaguing the industry. Late last year, the Cornucopia Institute filed a legal complaint against the USDA and other major agribusinesses and organic certifying agents claiming illegal labeling on hydroponic produce sold as certified organic. This sort of thinking was echoed by numerous groups who feel that when produce is not grown in soil, it is not truly organic.
Banning the labeling for hydroponic crops as organic could have had a catastrophic impact on many growers who rely on the higher prices that organic foods bring in and have transitioned produce to being grown this way.
The global organic food market is expected to grow at a CAGR of more than 14% from 2016 to 2021, according to TechSci Research. More organically grown food is needed to meet the continually escalating demand. A determination on hydroponic crops could turn the tide on trying to reach those goals.