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Organic Hops and the National List

HopsSo, as I previously posted I gave a presentation on beer law to the Food Law course at Franklin Pierce.  Today, I learned something new that I would have loved to include in my presentation had I known about it.

Now, I have not fully looked into this topic but I was reading a facebook note from an organic hop grower in New Hampshire (that I also learned just got TTB approval to start a brewery) Misty Mountain Farm (I can only assume it is based on the Led Zeppelin song "Misty Mountain Hop").  Apparently Hops are on the National List in 7 C.F.R. § 205.606:

Only the following nonorganically produced agricultural products may be used as ingredients in or on processed products labeled as “organic,” only in accordance with any restrictions specified in this section, and only when the product is not commercially available in organic form.

Hops appear as (k) on the list!

What is interesting is that Peak Organic was the brewery to file the petition back in 2007 asking for Hops inclusion on the list because it is not commercially available in organic form.  In the petition Peak Organic said that they buy organic hops of a particular variety when available but organic hops of the particular varieties needed are not always available organically grown. The recommendation of the  National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) Committee was to add it onto the list.  And there it appears.

But, this past December, the American Organic Hop Grower Association (AOHGA) filed a petition to the NOSB asking for the removal of Hops from the list.

It seems that the number of styles and availability of organically grown hops has increased.  I am all for removing hops from the national list because buyers of organic beer expect their beers to be brewed with organic hops as it is such a vital ingredient in beer.

In it's public comments the AOHGA points out:

The basic question to ask is this – how many varieties of hops must be available before variety is no longer a reason for organic hops to be considered commercially unavailable? If the criteria to remove an ingredient from the list is that every variety of the crop is commercially available, then hops (along with chia) are the only crops that have been held to such a high standard.

These are the only two crops on the 606 National List, everything else on the list is a derivative ingredient. Very few crops, if any, have every variety commercially available in an organic form.

If there are not enough varieties available organically today, then how many more are needed? Five, ten? What is the number?

Every year, new varieties are showing up in the non-organic marketplace. Are these required to be grown organically before hops can be removed from the list? If so, we are dealing with a moving goal post.

Certifiers will not make this determination of the number of varieties needed, and even if they did, it would lead to different standards across the industry. We need a consistent standard. This is a question only the NOSB can answer by addressing our petition.

It seems that with patented hops, that there could possibly always be a variety or two that are not grown organically—but should that matter?  Guess I'll have to do more tasting research.