Growers say ample supplies of organic hops are available
By MITCH LIES
The National Organic Standards Board has recommended to USDA that hops be removed from the list of nonorganic ingredients allowed in organic products.
The 15-member board, which met Oct. 28 in Madison, Wis., unanimously voted to recommend that beginning Jan. 1, 2013, all beer labeled organic must be brewed with organic hops.
According to a board report, the 2013 starting date provides "a transition period that allows brewers and growers to work together to secure organic hop sourcing."
"We think it's a good decision," said Meghann Quinn, executive director of the American Organic Hop Grower Association. "We want organic beer to be brewed with organic hops, and we think this lays out a reasonable road map to get there."
Organic beer can continue to be brewed with nonorganic hops until Jan. 1, 2013, but the board stipulated that brewers must attempt to source organic hops.
Hops were placed on the nonorganic product list after brewers said they couldn't find enough organic hops and enough variety to meet their needs.
Organic hop growers said it was unrealistic for brewers to expect all 150 varieties of hops to be raised organically. Growers said that a sufficient supply of organic hops was available to meet the existing needs of brewers.
The growers submitted a petition in December 2009 asking for hops to be removed from the list.
About 100 acres of hops are grown under organic certification, Quinn said. More could be in the ground soon, given the Oct. 28 recommendation.
Without the recommendation, Quinn said organic hop production would have ground to a halt.
"Growing uncontracted organic hops for the spot market is not an economically viable option," Quinn said.