I’ve been trying to untangle the issues around the list of 38 ingredients that food-makers have petitioned the USDA to allow in nonorganic form in products that are labeled organic. Since hops are on the list, and since Anheuser-Busch (maker of Bud, among others) is one of the companies involved in requesting the exemption for hops, it would seem that the issue is a cut-and-dried (or fermented-and-bottled) case of a big corporation trying to cut corners on organic standards.

Thank goodness for Joe Sixpack. The Philadelphia Daily News’s investigative beer columnist has done a little legwork and discovered that the issues are more complex.

Russ Klisch, president of Lakefront Brewery, in Milwaukee, which uses organic hops, charged that the move would give ‘an unfair competitive advantage to the macro-brewers’ because non-organic hops are cheaper.

But other small organic brewers use nonorganic hops (which, by the way, are treated with chemical insecticides and antimildew agents) because they simply can’t get their hands on organic hops, the bulk of which are grown in New Zealand in limited quantities.

So should we let Anheuser-Busch off the hook and encourage the USDA to allow the exemption, since getting its hands on massive quantities of organic hops could be next to impossible? Thanks to Joe Sixpack we know the truth:

Most of [Anheuser-Busch’s] hops are grown at its very own, 2,800-acre Elk Mountain Farms in Idaho.

Which begs the question: Why doesn’t A-B grow organic hops itself?

A-B didn’t reply to that question ….

Until the organic hops farmers in this country ramp up their production, ponder the conundrums over one of the 100 percent organic beers Mr. Sixpack has helpfully listed at the end of his column.

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