U.S., Korea come to terms on organic trade agreement
by Eric Schroeder
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WASHINGTON — The United States and Korea have reached an agreement paving the way for organic processed products certified in either country to be labeled as organic in either country. The arrangement between the two nations is effective immediately.
“Korea is a growing, lucrative market for U.S. organic products, and this arrangement increases demand for American organic products,” said Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture. “This is another chapter in the success story of organic agriculture, which provides more economic opportunities for American producers, more choices for consumers, and more jobs in rural communities across the country.”
Without the equivalency arrangement, organic farmers and businesses wanting to sell organic processed products in either country would have had to obtain separate certifications to meet each country’s organic standards, resulting in two sets of fees, inspections, and paperwork, and delays for U.S. farmers and businesses trying to export.
While the arrangement is Korea’s first organic equivalency with any trading partner, the United States has similar arrangements in place with Canada, the European Union and Japan.
The arrangement covers organic condiments, cereal, baby food, frozen meals, milk, and other processed products. According to U.S. industry estimates, exports of organic processed products from the United States are valued at approximately $35 million annually.
Korea’s National Agricultural Products Quality Management Service and the National Organic Program, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service — which oversee organic products in their respective countries — will both take on key oversight roles.
The Organic Trade Association applauded the arrangement.
“We extend our thanks and congratulations to the officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative for their success after a year of rigorous negotiations,” said Laura Batcha, chief executive officer and executive director of the O.T.A. “O.T.A. and the U.S. organic industry have worked diligently to help make this happen. This new pact streamlines the trade of organic processed food products between the two countries while still upholding the highest standards of organic oversight. It’s a win for the organic sectors and for the consumers of both nations.”
According to the O.T.A., American exports of organic processed foods and beverages to Korea, which were valued at about $35 million in 2013, will more than double over the next five years.