Last week the National Organic Safety Board (NOSB), the body tasked with making recommendations to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) around its organic certification, rejected a proposal that would disallow hydroponic and aquaponic farms from being certified organic.
Hydroponic farms grow fruit and vegetables in a growing medium submerged in water, through which farmers provide nutrients. Aquaponic farmers use connected aquaculture operations to provide these nutrients.
In 2010 the NOSB voted to exclude “soilless” forms of growing, but the USDA decided not to take the recommendation, continuing to allow hydroponic farms to be certified and leading to a period of uncertainty on the subject.
Some 100 hydroponic farms have been certified over the years inside and out of the United States (there are USDA organic approved certifiers all over the world). But the ambivalence on the part of the USDA and according to one certifier, often true belief in a soil-based standard, led many certifiers to stay out of that game.
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