USDA To Weigh In On Whether Organic Farming Means Using Soil
Written by Anne Field
For the growing number of farmers using hydroponic and aquaponic techniques to grow produce, April 19 is a big day. That's when, at a meeting in Denver, the USDA's National Organic Standard Board (NOSB) will decide whether such methods can continue to be eligible for the USDA-organic label. The outcome will determine whether these farmers can target the $39 billion market for organic produce.
Hydroponic farming uses mineral nutrient solutions in water, without soil, to grow plants. Aquaponic methods combine raising fish in tanks with hydroponics.
Whether or not produce grown in this way can be deemed organic has been a point of contention among advocates of what are known as recirculating farms and those of the soil-based persuasion for a few years. The latter say the label is legitimate if produce uses dirt or earth and that the law requires soil be used. The former see soil as a complex microbial environment, tailored to feed plants efficiently.
The Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 states: “An organic plan shall contain provisions designed to foster soil fertility, primarily through the management of the organic content of the soil through proper tillage, crop rotation and manuring.”