How are hydroponic and container-based systems certified organic?

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The National Organic Program has always allowed organic certification of hydroponic and container-based system. CCOF Certification Services (CCOF CS) has been certifying some form of substrate systems for decades. Container-based production for some crops like berries and tomatoes is growing in popularity in arid regions of California and Mexico because these systems have water-saving and capturing capacity, and those crops tend to do well with container practices.

CCOF CS applies the same level of rigor and scrutiny for container-based systems as we do for in-ground producers. All producers must use approved inputs, foster biodiversity, protect natural resources, and manage their entire parcel organically—including land in and around containers. Many container-based producers choose containers for certain crops like tomatoes, but then grow most of their other crops in soil. They cycle nutrients between systems and meet the standards in the same way that growers of perennial crops, transplants, and planting stock meet the standards. Our staff apply relevant guidance and policy from NOP such as guidance on greenhouse production and perennial crop production. We are confident in our certification of these systems, and welcome opportunities to support clarity and consistency among certifiers.