Soil Stewardship

Certifying hydroponic operations as organic runs contrary to the roots of the organic philosophy. While hydropic agriculture can help green our urban food deserts and improve food security, it does not share the same regenerative values as soil-based agriculture and, obvioulsy, cannot conform to explicit USDA standards that require both soil stewardship and biodiversity conservation.

Echoing this sentiment, the National Organic Standards Board recommended that organic certification be denied to hydroponic products. Similarly, Canada, Mexico and the European Parliament prohibit the organic certification of hydroponic products. Trump’s USDA, on the other hand, now allows hydroponic producers to use of the organic label, largely due to the financial influence of large-scale commercial interests.

Earlier this year, reflecting the outrage of the entire organic community, the Center for Food Safety (CFS) filed a new legal action demanding the USDA reverse its decision and prohibit hydroponic farmers from displaying the organic label on their produce.

The filing was endorsed by over a dozen organic farmer, consumer, retailer, and certifying organizations, including the Organic Farmers Association, Northwest Organic Dairy Producers Alliance (NODPA), PCC Community Markets, and the Cornucopia Institute.

The organic movement must maintain its focus on an earth-based, soil-regenerative approach to agriculture. Allowing hydroponic systems to be certified as organic undercuts the livelihood of small soil-based organic farmers and gives an economic advantage to large-scale food industrialists who lack a fundamental stewardship relationship to the soil.