Last week, we published what felt like a 2,700-word magnum opus on the contentious vote that capped decades of debate: the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) decision to continue granting organic certification to hydroponic and aquaponic farms. It’s a story some have followed with intense interest, judging from the comments we received and the ongoing conversations we’ve seen on various ag-interested message boards. While proponents of vertical farming rejoice, organic farmers who pioneered the movement are crestfallen (just see this eulogy from Radiance Dairy founder Francis Thicke). People are split on whether or not the decision is a good idea, but pretty much everyone who cares agrees it’s a big deal.
If you didn’t read the piece, we get it. Not everyone’s down for a #longread on the finer points of ag policy, especially one with a decades-long backstory and lots of technical lingo. But make no mistake: the vote is going to shape the perception of that famous, green organic seal, and that has implications for consumer choice, the environment, and the prices we pay at the supermarket.
So, to shorthand what exactly went down at the National Organic Standards Board last week, and what it means for the future of organic certification, we’ve created this handy, pocket-sized primer.