Rule change could prompt increase in organic hops

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TOPPENISH, Wash. (AP) -- Northwest farmers are planting new varieties of the key flavor ingredient in beer and working with researchers to develop ways to grow the crop without pesticides.

The movement stems from a federal decision last year requiring brewers who label their beer as organic to use organic hops beginning in 2013.

Some say the new rule could force organic craft brewers to tweak longtime recipes. Others contend the change will spark even more creativity in an industry that continues to gain speed.

According to the Organic Consumers Association, organic beer accounts for only about $50 million of the overall $7 billion craft beer market, but the figure continues to steadily grow.