Jenny Tucker, the deputy administrator of the USDA National Organic Program, released a policy memo on June 3, 2019 regarding land use history requirements for container based production systems. This memo clarified that all container systems “including hydroponic and other pot-based systems with or without soil must meet land requirements of the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 and the USDA organic regulations.” The regulations require that land must not have prohibited materials applied for three years prior to the harvest of an organic crop. Certifiers have not been requiring a three-year transition for containers up to this point.
This clarification applies to all container systems that have not yet obtained organic certification. Container systems that have already achieved certification will remain certified organic so long as they remain in compliance with the regulations. Existing certified organic container operations are being “grandfathered” in and will not be required to provide historical land use history to maintain certification. Any new acreage being added at grandfathered operations will require land use history verification.
All new applicants for container based systems must meet the land use history requirement moving forward. Applicants can meet this requirement by providing land use history affidavits from previous managers, input application records, and/or pesticide use reports. Please be prepared to provide this information upon submission of new applications or add acreages for all container based systems.