Appeals Court Affirms that Hydroponic Can Be Organic

Sept. 23, 2022
Conventional organic farmers had sued to disqualify indoor farming from the organic label.

A federal appeals court has upheld the principle that produce grown by indoor farming can be called organic.

The three-judge panel affirmed a lower court ruling in 2021 in a lawsuit brought by a coalition of conventional organic farmers. They sued after the USDA denied their request to make hydroponically grown crops specifically named as ineligible for organic status.

The plaintiffs had argued that because hydroponic farming involves no soil, it falls afoul of provisions in USDA regulations that require “provisions designed to foster soil fertility.” The USDA interpreted that to apply only to crops that were grown in soil in the first place. The trial judge sided with the USDA, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that finding in a four-page memorandum issued Sept. 22.

“The court stood up for our efforts to make organics more accessible to consumers and not limit them to only the wealthy,” Lee Frankel, executive director of the Coalition for Sustainable Organics, said in a statement.

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