US- The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed the lower court ruling in favor of USDA’s policy of permitting hydroponically grown crops to qualify for the National Organic Program (NOP).
The court found that the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) does not clearly require USDA to issue the requested rule that would bar such crops from organic certification.
With this most recent ruling, the debate over whether organic crops must be planted on soil may have reached its conclusion.
In an email, the Center for Food Safety (CFS) said, “We are deeply disappointed by the Court’s decision, and are currently reviewing the decision and analyzing potential next steps.”
In 2020, CFS and other plaintiffs filed a lawsuit after the USDA failed to act on a petition urging the agency to bar produce grown hydroponically from organic certification.
Since the program’s inception in 1990, the Organic Foods Production Act, the plaintiffs have maintained that it requires that the products grown under the organic program “foster soil fertility.”
They claim that because hydroponic farming doesn’t use soil, it cannot adhere to federal law’s requirements and that vegetables cultivated in this manner shouldn’t be eligible for certification.
The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled on March 18, 2021, against a group of traditional organic farmers and the CFS that challenged the USDA’s denial of their 2020 petition.
The court accepted the USDA’s “equally persuasive” interpretation of the OFPA, which stated that if crops are grown in soil, their producers must take measures to preserve that soil’s “fertility”.
The court determined that USDA did not commit an error when it determined that the OFPA does not prevent hydroponic systems from being eligible for the NOP.
Since the start of this dispute, several significant indoor farming ventures have expanded with the intention of upending the produce sector.
Both Upward Farms and Soli Organics are indoor farming businesses that have gained USDA organic certification for their produce, although neither one employs hydroponics.
According to MarketsandMarkets, Hydroponics Market is valued at US$12.1 billion in 2022 and is projected to reach US$25.1 billion by 2027.
The global hydroponics crop market is estimated to be valued at US$37.7 billion in 2022 and is projected to reach US$53.4 billion by 2027, recording a CAGR of 7.2% from 2022 to 2027, according to a new report by MarketsandMarkets.
Gotham Greens, a New York-based seller of hydroponically grown salad greens and herbs as well as dressings and cooking sauces, recently raised more than US$310 million from investors in its latest funding round.
The funding will finance the construction of greenhouses the company is building in Texas, Georgia, and Colorado; expansions of current facilities in Chicago and Providence, Rhode Island; and more projects and acquisitions across the country.
Gotham Greens’ products are sold at more than 3,000 US supermarkets, including locations of Amazon.com Inc.’s Whole Foods, Kroger Co., and Sprouts Farmers Market Inc.
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