Organic Court Case – Aquaponics Statement


We have to work together and raise our voices in collaboration to keep Hydroponics and Aquaponics Organic-Eligible! A Lawsuit against the USDA is attempting to strip Organic eligibility from hydroponics and other “container-based” agriculture which will impact aquaponics growers as well. 

We all know that aquaponics is an environmentally appropriate way to grow food that mimics natural ecosystem. And that the aquatic ecology is very similar to soil ecology, which is the “foundation to the organic standard”.

Plants can grow without soil — they can’t grow without water!

Organic Certification is critical for many commercial growers to meet consumer demand and achieve equitable price points. 

 Statements to the court by interested parties are due this month. Read the statement here, and sign below.

October 19, 2020

Statement from the Aquaponics Association and Undersigned Entities Regarding the Organic Certification of Container-Based Agriculture; Case No 3:20-cv-1537 before the US District Court for the Northern District of California

The Aquaponics Association and undersigned organizations and individuals write to express our opposition to the lawsuit Case No 3:20-cv-1537 regarding the Organic Certification of “hydroponic operations, which are production systems that grow food and crops without any soil.”

Aquaponics is a food production method integrating fish and plants in a recirculating system. This symbiotic relationship mimics the biological cycles found in nature. Aquaponics has been used as a farming technique for thousands of years and is now seeing large-scale viability to feed a growing global population with fresh produce and efficient fish protein.

Benefits of aquaponics include dramatically less water use; minimal agriculture discharge to air, water, and soil; and the ability to grow food in locations where soil is non-existent on urban rooftops, city centers, concrete, sand to arid deserts.

Aquaponic systems include a hydroponic component in which plants are grown. If this lawsuit is successful, many aquaponic growers will likely lose their organic certification that is critical to their economic success.

Aquaponics Fits 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 chemical-free, environmentally sustainable, and relies on natural ecosystems for plant growth.

Aquaponic produce aligns with what the consumer expects when they purchase “Organic”

“Organic” is perceived by consumers to mean:

Production without synthetic chemicals
Many aquaponic farms operate with only OMRI-certified materials and follow NOP guidelines.

Production that fosters the cycling of resources, ecological balance, and biodiversity conservation
Aquaponics is an ecosystems in which reduces natural resource consumption, and produces zero waste. Aquaponics has also proven that it can produce more food than soil culture per area, thus saving more of the natural soil environment for crops that can perform better in field crop production such as corn, soy, wheat, and many vining crops. And, aquaponics produces the most efficient animal protein: fish.

Production that relies on biological ecosystems to support plant health
Aquaponic systems rely 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 the Aquaponic 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. Aquaponics allows environmentally-sensitive agriculture where growing in soil isn’t possible. And, controlled environment growing offers the possibility of local food year-round.

This lawsuit, if successfully, would prevent entire regions of the country from the benefits of the organic label to their farmers.

In an era of climate change, resource depletion, and rapid population growth, the organic price premium is a critical incentive to draw more growers into aquaponics. If this lawsuit succeeds, the aquaponics industry will not grow as quickly and our environment, health, and economy will suffer.

Aquaponics is in no way intending to out compete soil growers. Instead aquaponics is part of the wholistic solution for feeding a growing population in places that traditional organic soil growers would not otherwise choose to or be able to grow. 

On behalf of the Aquaponics Association, and undersigned organizations

contact: Brian Filipowich

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