Today, we celebrate a historical announcement in the global organic community – beginning in 2014 organic products certified in Japan or in the U.S. may be sold as organic in either country.
The United States has trade arrangements with several nations to facilitate the global exchange of organic products. This particular partnership will streamline access to the growing Japanese organic market for American farmers and processors, benefiting the thriving organic industry and supporting jobs and businesses on a global scale. Equally important is that consumers benefit from a diverse array of organic products year-round.
Through the National Organic Program (NOP), USDA has helped farmers and businesses create an industry that encompasses over 17,000 organic businesses in the United States alone, and has grown to $35 billion annually in U.S. retail sales. The NOP combines strict organic standards, a rigorous oversight system, and access to the U.S. market for conforming organic products. The integrity of this system helps propel strong growth in consumer demand for certified organic products. This partnership reflects the strength of the USDA organic standards, allowing American organic farmers, ranchers, and businesses to access Asia’s largest organic market.
This is the third organic equivalence agreement for the United States, and we expect the benefits to organic producers and consumers will only increase as more agreements are reached.
Equivalence agreements are important for increasing the ability of small farmers and businesses to export into other countries. Access to larger markets is a major incentive for developing organic systems, and sustainable production systems will provide fertile ground for family farmers, rural communities, and agricultural economies. By minimizing duplication of certifications, equivalence agreements can provide great cost-saving for even the smallest of producers.
The challenge of equivalence is not just about comparing standards, but also about the ability of certifiers and governments to verify the integrity throughout the organic value chain. This integrity is critical to maintaining the trust of consumers in all markets. To prepare for this arrangement, both parties conducted thorough on-site audits to ensure that regulations, quality control measures, certification requirements, and labeling practices were compatible while maintaining the integrity of both systems.
This partnership is a win for the American economy and sets the foundation for additional organic agricultural trade agreements in Asia. Both the U.S and Japan are committed to ensuring that all traded organic products meet the terms of the partnership, retaining their organic integrity from farm to market.