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The current position from the National Organic Program (NOP) is that certification of hydroponic production systems is allowed as long as the producer can demonstrate compliance with the organic regulations. There are certified organic hydroponic operations in the United States that are certified by USDA accredited certifying agents based on the current regulations and the operation’s organic system plan.

The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) passed a final recommendation in April of 2010 on production standards for terrestrial plants in containers and enclosures. This recommendation would prohibit hydroponic production of organic crops, with an exception for mushrooms, sprouts, and micro-greens, and allow container production of organic crops under specific provisions that support natural and diverse soil ecology within the container. Hydroponics is defined in the 2010 NOSB Recommendation as “the production of normally terrestrial, vascular plants in nutrient rich solutions or in an inert, porous, solid matrix bathed in nutrient rich solutions.” The Organic Trade Association submitted comments in support of this recommendation.

In 2017, NOSB considered another proposal on hydroponics and container-growing, but the proposal did not pass. The proposal would have imposed a new definition of hydroponics that included specific limitations on the quantity and frequency of liquid nutrient applications. The Organic Trade Association submitted comments to suggest NOSB retain the definition for hydroponics accepted by NOSB in 2010. OTA continues to support the 2010 recommendation to prohibit hydroponics and set clear guidelines for container production.

The NOP has stated that it may in the future provide additional guidance regarding hydroponic production and how the regulations apply to such methods, but we have not seen any guidance or a proposed rule to date. In the meantime, hydroponic operations certified under the NOP must comply with the organic crop regulations as they are written. OTA will continue to monitor the process and engage members as new information is released and opportunities for public comment arise.

Senior Director of Regulatory and Technical Affairs
(503) 798-3294
Johanna Mirenda
Farm Policy Director
(202) 812-7704