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Court Ruling Clears Way for Hydroponics To Join National Organic Program

U.S. District Court in San Francisco ruled this week that USDA was correct in certifying organic hydroponic operations as eligible for the National Organic Program (NOP). It was a victory for the Coalition for Sustainable Organics (CSO) and a defeat for the Center for Food Safety (CFS). It represented traditional organic producers who believe that without using soil, something cannot be organic.

“This case stems from an ongoing debate about whether hydroponics, a form of soil-less agriculture, may be certified organic,” wrote  Chief Judge Richard Seeborg for the U.S. District Court in Northern California.

“In a rulemaking petition, plaintiff Center for Food Safety (CFS) asked the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to prohibit the organic certification of hydroponic production systems. USDA declined the request. CFS now seeks a review of the USDA’s denial letter. As set forth in detail below, Defendants’ motion for summary judgment is granted and plaintiffs’ corresponding motion is denied because USDA’s denial of the rulemaking petition reasonably concluded the applicable statutory scheme does not exclude hydroponics from the organic program. Plaintiffs’ motion to complete the administrative record is also denied.”