U.S., Japan reach organic trade agreement

by Jeff Gelski
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BALTIMORE — Organic products certified in Japan or in the United States may be sold as organic in either country beginning Jan. 1, according to an agreement reached between the two countries and announced Sept. 26. U.S. organic exports to Japan are estimated at $80 million now. Thanks to the agreement, they are expected to reach $250 million in 10 years, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Without the agreement, organic farmers and businesses wanting to sell products in either country have to obtain separate certifications to meet each country’s organic standards. These requirements typically mean two sets of fees, inspections and paperwork. The trade partnership with Japan will eliminate such barriers. The agreement with Japan is similar to previous U.S. equivalency arrangements with Canada and the European Union.

The U.S. and Japan organic standards cover the life cycle of the product, including allowed and prohibited substances and natural resources conservation requirements. Both countries individually determined that their programs were equivalent with no restrictions for organic plant and plant products.

“This partnership reflects the strength of the U.S.D.A. organic standards, allowing American organic farmers, ranchers and businesses to access Asia’s largest organic market,” said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “It is a win for the American economy and sets the foundation for additional organic agricultural trade agreements in Asia. This partnership provides economic opportunities for farmers and small businesses, resulting in good jobs for Americans across the organic supply chain.”

According to the U.S.D.A., the U.S. organic industry encompasses more than 17,000 businesses and has $35 billion in annual sales.

“This monumental agreement will further create jobs in the already growing U.S. organic sector, spark additional market growth and be mutually beneficial to producers both in the United States and Japan and to consumers who choose organic products,” said Christine Bushway, executive director and chief executive officer of the Organic Trade Association, Brattleboro, Vt.

Lynn Clarkson, president of Clarkson Grain Co., Inc., Cerro Gordo, Ill., said, “This is welcome news for the U.S. organic grain industry, which will see its products more easily traded and welcomed in the burgeoning Japanese market. Organic grains are a vital part of organic offerings and crucial to global trade.”

The signing agreement took place at National Products Expo East in Baltimore. Signing the agreement were Anne L. Alonzo, U.S.D.A. Agricultural Marketing Service administrator; Ambassador Islam Siddiqui, U.S. trade representative chief agricultural negotiator; and Hiroyuki Kobayashi, director general, Food Safety and Consumer Affairs Bureau.
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