Organic? Or not Organic?

USDA to rule on labeling requirements for organic hops

Earlier this month, the USDA’s National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) Handling Committee recommended the continued use of non-organic hops in beer labeled organic by denying a petition by the American Organic Hop Grower Association (AOHGA) to remove hops from the National List of non-organic ingredients allowed in organic food (section 205.606). The decision is set to be voted on by the full board in late October.

Hops were first added to the National List by the NOSB in June 2007, when organic hops were primarily produced in Europe and New Zealand. Since then, the U.S. organic hop industry has made significant advances. Progressive, large-scale family farms in the Pacific Northwest and small, local growers across the country are now growing organic hops.

In an attempt to remove hops from the National List, the AOHGA submitted a petition to the USDA in December 2009, supported by Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, Anheuser-Busch, Lakefront Brewery, Seven Bridges Cooperative, and Hopunion LLC. The NOSB’s response in their recent recommendation states, “On the basis of written and public comment in response to this petition to remove, organic hops were deemed not to be available in the form, quantity, or quality to currently justify removal from 205.606. To do so would negatively impact the organic brewing industry.”


  1. gitchegumee says

    Let me get this right…..
    The industry itself walked up and asked for this. Almost screamed for this. And these guys think that true organic hops “would negatively impact the organic brewing industry”? There is NO ORGANIC BREWING without organic hops. (My opinion, apparently not theirs) Who is lining their pockets?

  2. wildcrafter says

    Once again, hop farming stays an unlevel playing field,,,and this is going to put the brewing world off kilter.:(

    Think of this whole topic like this- “How many hop farmers are in the USA?”,,,,,a very few,,,,,and somebody has some serious pull.:confused:

    This ruling is FLAT, JUST WRONG!:mad:

  3. Brewer Bob says

    I’ve been in the brewing/food industry off and on for the past 20 years and here’s my spin:

    Organic is an awesome concept in that only if the purity is sincere and “real”.

    Another tack, Organic is used as a marketing weapon/tool and any government involvement corresponds to bureaucracy and all the corruption that goes with it.

  4. wildcrafter says

    Brewer Bob I’ve been in the brewing/food industry off and on for the past 20 years and here’s my spin:

    Organic is an awesome concept in that only if the purity is sincere and “real”.

    Another tack, Organic is used as a marketing weapon/tool and any government involvement corresponds to bureaucracy and all the corruption that goes with it.

    Brewer Bob.

    No organic hops = no organic beer. Truth in labeling time.:confused:

    Arguing organic is passe’.

  5. liammckenna says

    In regards to ‘organic’, everything about the USDA seems corrupted.

    Their ‘organic’ certification (unlike that of most federal agriculture departments around the world) is hollow and meaningless.

    A blatant abuse of power, willful ignorance of what the word ‘organic’ means, a meaningless fabrication to hoodwink millions of consumers and line the pockets of ‘big organic’. This is my perception.

    US products bearing the organic mark are dubious at best in my estimate of their true organic status. Given the current ‘rules’, I see no value added in US certified organic products. This is very bad for producers who have gone through a lot of legitimate efforts to bring their products to market when consumers like me (a prime target market) doubt the pedigree of their wares. I realize I am tarring everyone with the same brush but what’s a consumer to do?

    US consumers and producers should change this situation. perhaps create a producer driven alternative certification with logical rules.

    This is a really bad joke that will harm the entire industry (including more ethical, true organic, producers).

    Perhaps this is the strategy. To hoodwink consumers until a backlash after which industrial producers will point out the folly of ‘organic’ as just a meaningless waste of time (their opinion, not mine).



  6. LuskusDelph says

    The “organic” label is practically meaningless. The food industry in the USA is a mess, with no regard for consumers. Too many loopholes, etc.

    Digressing for a moment (but not really), food products are not even required to be labeled as genetically modified, and lobby groups have made sure that they won’t ever be. They are even attempting to have labeling rules pushed through that forbid manufacturers from labeling their foods as “non genetically modified” (their rational is that it confuses consumers). I’m not a health nut, but I for one would love to totally avoid genetically modified food…but it has become virtually impossible since
    a) Without labeling as such, there is know way to know
    b) Probably more than 75% of commercially prepared food is now made with genetically modified ingredients.

    The latest insult on the ingredient label front is a new ruling that will now allow High Fructose Corn Syrup to appear on labels more innocently (or seemingly so) simply as “corn sugar”, presumably because of public backlash against the increasing use of HFCS.

    So as far as “organic” on the label goes, doesn’t mean squat to me anymore.
    It’s all a big joke (and not a funny one).

    End of rant.

  7. wildcrafter says

    To Liam and all who may care.

    We have been organic,,and certified,,since the inception of organic for us,,,starting in 2001 or so.

    Why? No need for chemicals of any kind,,and we wanted to share with others what we grow that way. Organic is not difficult.
    Simple folks,,simple plant foods.

    Heck,,, simple folks have more time than money,,and more brains that smarts?:p

    So, Liam, when you say,,,

    “I realize I am tarring everyone with the same brush but what’s a consumer to do?”

    ,,,,all I can say is,,,,,,know your farmer,,and the ethics and principles they live by.

    Organic food is not hard,,,and it for sure tastes better……
    ……hops included.

    Jump through the hoops,,,make it real. Go organic,,,taste the difference.;)

    Truth in labeling,,,make it so.:cool:

  8. liammckenna says

    I do care, Wildcrafter and appreciate the work you and others are doing.

    I also agree that organic does taste better generally.

    My local farmers market is the recipient of a very large portion of my food budget. As you say, I know my farmers and they know me. I couldn’t be happier about it all.

    I live on an island in the middle of the North Atlantic. I need to know my local food sources and know them well. This is not just for ethical reasons (carbon footprint of imported goods) but also for practical reasons (for virtually the same price, I get incomparably better meat, eggs, cheese and produce from local sources than I get at any local chain grocery store).

    I also get to buy local delicacies (cod tongues, cod cheeks, caplin, moose, caribou, seal flipper, blueberries, cloudberries, partridgeberries, to name some of the more delicious items). Yum.

    Truth in labelling? I wish. Although, as I’ve mentioned, the ‘organic’ label generally means a lot more outside the reach of the USDA.

    Fight the good fight, Wildcrafter.



  9. gitchegumee says

    Isn’t there a way to label to a higher standard? Maybe trademark something that has teeth? Or go with a European standard? Seems like there should be a way to alert your customers that you meet a higher standard than the US’s “organic.” BTW, read a book called “The Omnivore’s Dilemma.” Really good book. Keep up the fight and good luck!

  10. matt says

    This hits home for me as all are products, beer, cider, soda, smoothies, fruit drinks are certified organic by the Danish Goverment as well as EU regulations.

    Working with organic labeling, even in the EU, is confusing at best.

    Some issues I had to deal with and may be of interest to others;

    Danish Organic labeled product are accepted by the U.S. but USDA label organic is not accepted in Denmark.

    But…If you want to spend the money, you can have it EU certified.

    China does not reconise EU organic labeling and in fact, China has no “Organic” certification program, but you can buy “organic” products produced in China, in the EU and other countries, including the U.S.

    Most Organic certifications are controlled by local goverement regulations and can vary to a point that the certification is useless here in the EU.

    The EU is very slowly, auditing other non-EU countries certification programs to accept them as EU Organic. (sorry, as of now the U.S. has not made it)

    Back to the USDA Organic Hops issue.

    When you have agribusinesses like Monsanto (Herbicides, pesticides) And ADM (GMOs) With almost unlimited budgets to lobby the USDA, What do you expect?

    They are over here lobbying too.