Proposed USDA Organic Rules to Dilute the Meaning of Organic Beer?

A new USDA proposal would change the rules for hops used in organic beer. The actual rules proposal is at the USDA's site

The change would add hops to the National List which would allow non-organic hops to be used in certified organic products if the organic version is not "commercially available". According to the rules, the commercial availability is determined by an "accredited certifying agent" as follows:

The ability to obtain a production input in an appropriate form, quality, or quantity to fulfill an essential function in a system of organic production or handling, as determined by the certifying agent in the course of reviewing the organic plan.

The critics of this part of the rule call it the "Budweiser exemption" since it was allegedly lobbied for by the beer manufacturer. Critics also charge that "commercially available" is industry speak for expensive so although organic varieties may be available, the high cost does not allow it to be commercially available.

Lakefront Brewery's president commented on the proposed rule to argue that organic beer should use organic hops with no substitutions. You can read this and other info. on this topic at Beer Activist

[tags]beer, organic[/tags] 

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4 thoughts on “Proposed USDA Organic Rules to Dilute the Meaning of Organic Beer?

  1. Howdy,

    Thanks for covering this issue and for linking to beeractivist.com. One clarification on this is that the USDA rule is not really a change, just a formalization of the status quo. In other words, organic hops have not yet been required in organic beers and this rule would “officially” add hops to the excluded ingredients list. Most of the organic beers currently available do not use organic hops but there some notable exceptions. Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing, for example, uses all organic hops.

    Looking at your “related posts from the past” list it looks like you cover “green” beer issues occasionally. I’ll add you to my blog roll. And by the way, I’d love to know how you get that “related posts” list to appear – I’d like to add it to my blog too.

    Cheers,
    Chris O’Brien

  2. @Chris: thanks for the info. I’m going to take a look back on this post since it took me a while to find info. that didn’t seem either too biased, was clear enough, or wasn’t just a repeat of a press release.

    I’ve also added your site to our blogroll. As for the related posts, it is this WordPress plugin. However, it looks like you are on wordpress.com so they may have a similar plugin available.

  3. I don’t understand these rules. If a product contains ingredients that were grown with pesticides, why should it be considered organic? If its impossible for some brewers to buy enough organic hops, then it should be impossible for them to call their beer organic, its as simple as that. If they want to slap a lable on their beer that says “made from organically grown barley” they should be able to do that, but why should they be allowed to call their beer organic if its not?

    p.s. I started growing my own organic hops this year for homebrewing…

  4. The National List used by the USDA contains non-organic ingredients allowed in organic production. If an item is not on the list, it is not allowed to be used on products labeled organic or 100% organic. In other words, if it isn’t on the list, you can’t use it and still use the “USDA organic” label, unless it constitutes less than 5% of the product. I’m not a brewer, so I don’t know what percentage of beer is hops, but perhaps this is why it was not required as per Chris O’Brien comment.

    Water is also exempt, though it is not on the list.

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