Tag: National Organic Program

USDA Reconfirms Organic Eligibility of Aquaponics

POSTED BY BRIAN FILIPOWICH

From the USDA 1/25/18:

“At its Fall 2017 public meeting, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) heard significant testimony about hydroponic, aquaponic, and aeroponic operations. Given the extensive debate on this topic, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is posting this notice to clarify the status of these systems.

“Certification of hydroponic, aquaponic, and aeroponic operations is allowed under the USDA organic regulations, and has been since the National Organic Program began. For these products to be labeled as organic, the operation must be certified by a USDA-accredited certifying agent, and maintain compliance with the USDA organic regulations.

“The NOSB has recommended prohibiting aeroponic systems in organic production. USDA will consider this recommendation; aeroponics remains allowed during this review.”

NOSB Gives Organic Aquaponics the GREEN Light!

The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) voted 8 to 7 last week to reject proposals that would have banned aquaponics and hydroponics from organic eligibility. The Board did vote to ban aeroponics.

The Aquaponics Association applauds the NOSB’s decision. Aquaponics embodies exactly what consumers expect in their organic produce:

  1. No synthetic pesticides or chemicals;
  2. Resource-efficient and planet-friendly; and
  3. A thriving, diverse microbial root ecosystem.

The NOSB’s decision will usher in a host of benefits to our food system. Aquaponics gives us the ability to eat fresh, local produce even in dense urban areas and arid climates. The organic label will allow commercial aquaponic growers to supply retailers the most local organic food possible.

Aquaponics employs closed-loop, recirculating systems of fish and plants. These systems use over 90% less water than soil farming; do not emit harmful agriculture discharge; and use the minimum resources necessary to grow vibrant, healthy crops.

For consumers, the NOSB’s decision will lead to more accessible, affordable produce as more aquaponic growers enter the organic market. Aquaponics will also foster local economic growth with year-round food production jobs that can never be outsourced.

In short, the NOSB’s decision is a big WIN for our environment, our health, and our economy.

Aquaponics Association Calls on the NOSB to Retain Our Organic Eligibility

The Aquaponics Association submitted its official comment to the NOSB ahead of the Fall 2017 Meeting, at which it will vote on aquaponics’ organic future. The Association will also deliver web comments later this month. Here is the state of the Association’s Aquaponic and Hydroponic Organic Coalition:

Aquaponics and Hydroponics Organic Coalition Comment for the Fall 2017 NOSB Meeting

The Aquaponic and Hydroponic Organic Coalition recommends that the NOSB allow organic certification of aquaponic and hydroponic (AP/HP) farms that are compliant with USDA organic standards. These farming methods align with the organic mission and the integrity of the organic label stands much to gain by including them.

AP/HP are critical to improving the sustainability of our agricultural system, but revoking organic eligibility would move these industries backwards at a time we must foster their growth.

AP/HP fit the Organic mission. The Organic label is about empowering consumers to identify products that match their values. Consumers do not prefer organic because it is grown in soil; they prefer it because it is pesticide-free, environmentally sustainable, and relies on natural ecosystems for plant growth. So the question is: do AP/HP align with what the consumer expects when they purchase organic? Yes.

“Organic” is perceived by consumers to mean:

-Production without synthetic chemicals. AP/HP do not require synthetic pesticides or fertilizers.

-Production that fosters the cycling of resources, ecological balance, and biodiversity conservation. AP/HP can be constructed as closed-loop ecosystems in which only the minimum required water and nutrients are added and with minimal or no discharge. AP/HP have also proven they can produce more food than soil culture per land area, thus saving more of the natural environment from the toll of agriculture.

-Production that relies on biological ecosystems to support plant health. Organic AP/HP production relies on a robust microflora in the root zone—made of the same types and numbers of bacteria and fungi that thrive in soil. This flora converts nutrients into forms available to plants and maintains plant health by reinforcing naturally-occurring mechanisms of disease resistance—just as in a healthy soil. (see attached Soil Food Web Report)

-Production that responds to site-specific conditions by integrating cultural, biological, and mechanical practices. Consumers expect that organic produce has been grown with a healthy human element, where local customs, expertise, and ingenuity can overcome droughts, concrete jungles, and climate changes. AP/HP allow environmentally-sensitive agriculture where growing in soil isn’t possible.

The benefits of AP/HP include: water savings, reduced nutrient use and fertilizer runoff, shorter supply chains, food safety, and space efficiency.

In an era of climate change, resource depletion, and rapid population growth, the organic price premium is a critical incentive to draw more entrants into this market. If the NOSB revokes AP/HP organic eligibility, these industries will not grow as quickly and our environment, health, and economy will suffer.

AP/HP align with the values of organic that consumers expect, and they are highly sustainable. Rather than placing a greater toll on our environment and health, the NOSB should retain the organic eligibility of aquaponics and hydroponics.

Thank you,
The Aquaponic and Hydroponic Organic Coalition

Members:
Agua Dulce Farm
Anacostia Aquaponics
Aquaberry Gardens
Arbordale Nurseries
Archi’s Institute
Association for Vertical Farming
Austin Aquaponics
Berry Audit Services
Blue Mojo Farm, LLC
Boto Waterworks
Cali Summer Clubs
CC Grow Inc.
CEA Fresh Farms
Center Valley Organics LLC
Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy
City of Minot North Dakota
NC Simple Life Farms LLC
Downtown Farms and Aquaponics
Edenworks
Evergreens
Fazenda Urbana Inc.
FloppyHatFarms
Fresh Farm Aquaponics, Inc
Freshies Aquaponics
Friendly Aquaponics, Inc
Gateshead Consulting Corporation
Great Lakes Growers LLC
HATponics
Heartland Aquaponics, LLC
Jenoe Group – Hydroponics
JoLi Farms
Joyful J Farms
Kabcao Aquaponics
Laughing Bear Enterprises
Living Justly Industries
Lotus Urban Farm and Garden Supply
Making Seeds 2 Cell
Manas Organic
Marine Science Faculty, Autonomous University of Sinaloa
Moroccan association of hydroponics
Northeast Brooklyn Housing Development Corporation
Oko Farms, LLC
Profound Microfarms
Rainsmith Agritech/Aquaponics
Renew Richmond
Re-Nuble
Solar Spice and Tea Trading Company
Springworks Farm
Symbiotic Aquaponic
Synergy Star Events
TerraFirma Aquaponixx
Texas Organic Matters
The Family Fish Farms Network, Inc
Trifecta Ecosystems, Inc
VERDEEN
Verticulture Farms
Windy City Harvest / Chicago Botanic Garden
Yep Yep Organic Farm

Individuals:
Amber C. Monroe
Andrew Carter
Everett L Melton
Imad Jabbour
Ivy Diene
Juan Pablo Pesalaccia
Krishnagopal Sharma
Marc L. Maynard
Matthew Henley
Peter Tyler
Xina Ash

Spring 2017 Update

NOSB Defers Decision on Organic Aquaponics to Fall 2017

By Jack Symington
Spring 2017

After three days of discussion in April, the National Organic Standards Board deferred deciding on the Organic eligibility of bioponic farming methods, including aquaponics. The NOSB will continue studying the issue and revisit it at the Fall 2017 meeting.

For the time being, aquaponic production is still eligible for Organic certification.

The primary reason for the deferral was the lack of consensus on both the definitions of various bioponic methods and the interpretation of “Organic” by consumers and farmers alike.

More Information

During the proceedings, Harriet Behar, NOSB member and former Organic certifier, stated that “[o]rganic is not input substitution. It is a whole system… a type of agriculture that offers hope for fixing the problems.” This attitude aligned with those of the consumer and retailer representatives on the board, who believe the current market interpretations of “Organic” center on ecological sustainability and input reduction. But even these interpretations would affect the eligibility of different bioponic methods, befitting aquaponics more than hydroponics, as the latter requires greater human inputs.

Proponents of restricting bioponic methods from Organic certification don’t believe the market should influence the definition. Instead, soil cultivation should remain the focus. Additionally, there was agreement on prioritizing the reduction of inputs, but divergence on the degree to which the growing media be biologically active.

There was no disagreement that aquaponics demonstrates an ecologically complete system requiring little human input, but there was discussion of the need for a different label than Organic based on the substrate choice.

Advocates of this idea cited the importance of an exclusive labelling to protect and encourage local farmers who can adhere to the strict definition of Organic without significant initial capital outlays. Dissidents worried that more labels would only confuse consumers and retailers. Joelle Mosso, NOSB member, “want[s] organic to be the form of agriculture, not a subset of agriculture,” and expressed wariness that a separation could end with two labels commercially weaker than one.

Before label and certification discussions resume, the board asks for more clear definitions of the three different bioponic systems (aqua, hydro, and aero). Specific questions for which the board wanted clarification involved the use of containers, biologically active grow media, and human inputs in each system’s production standard. While individual container systems lacking a solid substrate and requiring copious human inputs may struggle to retain Organic certification, the ecological complexity and sustainability of aquaponic systems provide both farmers and consumers a product credibly within the Organic framework.

Official Statement on the Ongoing NOSB (National Organic Standards Board) Aquaponic Eligibility Debate

The Aquaponics Association’s official statement on the ongoing NOSB (National Organic Standards Board) Aquaponic eligibility debate. Prepared by:

Brian Filipowich

Aquaponics Association, Directer of Public Policy, February 2017

aquaponicsassociation.org

The Aquaponics Association Urges the National Organic Standards Board to Maintain the Organic Eligibility of Aquaponic Produce

The Aquaponics Association very strongly urges the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) to maintain the ability of crops grown in aquaponic systems to carry the organic seal. The 15-member NOSB met in St. Louis last November and considered a proposal to revoke the organic eligibility of crops grown in water-based systems like aquaponic, hydroponic, and perhaps even soil-based “container-grown” systems. The NOSB noted that in 2016 there are 52 certified organic hydroponic/aquaponic operations. The NOSB plans to vote again in April, at the Spring 2017 meeting in Denver.

 https://www.ams.usda.gov/event/nosb-spring-2017-meeting-denver-co

The Aquaponics Association firmly believes that we can deliver what consumers expect when they see the organic label:         

1)  No synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, or antibiotics

2)  Sustainable production

3)  Healthy, active microbiology

 

The NOSB eventually found that more work will be needed before making a final decision on this matter, and they sent it back for more work in the Crops Sub-committee. They did, however, pass a non-binding resolution stating their belief that crops with “entirely water-based substrates” should not be eligible. And, in their statements, several members of the NOSB expressed a keen interest in revoking aquaponic organic eligibility. Even if the NOSB does eventually make a final decision, it would still take years for the National Organic Program (NOP) to write and implement rules. (In fact, the NOP did not act on the NOSB’s 2010 recommendation to ban hydroponics). So, for the foreseeable future, aquaponics remains organic eligible. We will see movement and more clarity on this issue at the next NOSB meeting in April 2017.

Dr. Sarah Taber, Aquaponics Association Director of Food Safety, delivered a statement illustrating the depth of empirical peer-reviewed research showing that the roots of aquaponic plants contain the same quantity and diversity of root bacteria and fungi as soil-grown plants. This statement spoke to a key consideration of organic eligibility: whether plant nutrients are delivered via biological processes or inert mineral solutions.

Brian Filipowich, Aquaponics Association Director of Public Policy, made a statement about consumers’ organic expectations, the sustainability of aquaponics, and the economic effect of the organic seal on aquaponic growers. He noted that the price premium of organic crops is critical to incentivizing new entrants into sustainable growing. (See the full statement for the further discussion of efficiency and economics.)

Aquaponic systems are their own ecosystem of fish, plants, and bacteria that thrive in a symbiotic environment. Because the systems are closed-loop, only the minimum necessary inputs are added (fish food) and with no environmentally-damaging runoff. Aquaponics uses over 90% less water than soil- grown crops. We can also offer a healthy, efficient, and delicious source of animal protein: fish such as Tilapia, Blue Gill, and Perch. And regarding organic: we can’t use antibiotics or chemical pesticides in our systems because it would kill our bacteria and our ecosystems.

Because aquaponics is not soil-based, it can provide fresh local produce in urban or drought-stricken areas. If we are going to meet the demand for affordable organic produce in the decades to come, we will need to employ efficient methods like aquaponics. And, controlled environment production offers full-year jobs, rather than seasonal.

The Aquaponics Association has formed the Aquaponic and Hydroponic Organic Coalition to advocate on this front. The Coalition is a group of over 50 aquaponic and hydroponic growers and stakeholders.                   

Click Here, to Join the Aquaponic and Hydropoponic Coalition.

The Coalition will continue to fight for organic eligibility until the NOP resolves the issue.

https://www.facebook.com/AquaponicsAssociation/

Join our cause to ensure the future of aquaponics is protected!