Cancel OK

Judge rules in favor of USDA’s certification of organic hydroponic producers

United States Department of Agriculture logo.

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA March 19, 2021 – The Coalition for Sustainable Organics (CSO) is ecstatic with the ruling issued today by the U.S. District Court in San Francisco that affirms the legality of U.S. Department of Agriculture certification of organic hydroponic operations.

Lee Frankel, executive director of the CSO, stated, “Our membership believes that everyone deserves organic. The decision is a major victory for producers and consumers working together to make organics more accessible and the supply more resilient. The COVID-19 pandemic has further increased demand for fresh organic vegetables and fruits as consumers look to healthy foods to bolster their immune systems and protect their family’s health. The court preserves historically important supplies of berries, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, mushrooms, leafy greens, herbs, sprouts and microgreens that are frequently grown using containers or other hydroponic organic systems. In addition, the lawsuit threatened the nursery industry that provides many of the seedlings used by organic growers planting both in open fields as well as greenhouses.”

The court in its written opinion stated that “USDA’s ongoing certification of hydroponic systems that comply with all applicable regulations is firmly planted in OFPA.”

Frankel was pleased that the court ruling clearly affirmed the legitimacy of hydroponic and container production systems under the Organic Foods Production Act that established the USDA National Organic Program. In addition, the ruling also confirmed that USDA was fully within its rights to reject the petition to ban the certification of operations and correctly followed procedures in its handling of the petition.

“We look forward to the organic industry coming together in the wake of this court decision to help strengthen the organic community, continue to enhance the cycling and recycling of natural resources and promote ecological balance,” continued Frankel. “We are eternally grateful to the teams at USDA and the Department of Justice in effectively defending the work of the National Organic Program.”