NUREMBERG, GERMANY – The United States and the European Union will recognize their two respective organic programs as equivalent and allow access to each other’s markets under a partnership formed Feb. 15 in Nuremberg. Beginning June 1, organic products certified in Europe or in the United States may be sold as organic in either region.
The organics sector in the United States and the European Union combined is valued at more than $50 billion annually, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“This partnership will open new markets for American farmers and ranchers, create more opportunities for small businesses and result in good jobs for Americans who package, ship and market organic products,” said U.S. Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan.
Dacian Ciolos, the E.U. commissioner responsible for Agriculture and Rural Development, said, “This agreement comes with a double-added value. On the one hand, organic farmers and food producers will benefit from easier access, with less bureaucracy and less costs, to both the U.S. and E.U. markets, strengthening the competitiveness of this sector.
“In addition, it improves transparency to organic standards and enhances consumers’ confidence and recognition of our organic food and products. This partnership marks an important step, taking E.U.-U.S. agricultural trade relations to a new level of cooperation.”
Mr. Ciolis, Ms. Merrigan and Ambassador Isi Siddiqui, U.S. Trade Representative Chief Agricultural Negotiator, signed formal letters creating the partnership.
All products meeting the terms of the partnership may be traded and labeled as certified organic. Previously, growers and companies wanting to trade products in both the United States and the European Union had to obtain separate certifications for the two standards, which meant a double set of fees, inspections and paperwork.
“Eliminating the distraction of multi-standard organic certification will strengthen the application of organic standards nationwide,” said Jake Lewin, chief certification officer for California Certified Organic Farmers (C.C.O.F.), Santa Cruz, Calif. “As a result of this agreement, we expect that more than 800 C.C.O.F. farmers and processors will see a reduction in their overall fees and complexity of certification.”
The partnership addresses antibiotics by requiring certifying agents to verify antibiotics were not used for any reason.
All products must be shipped with an organic export certificate. The document will show the production location, identify the organization that certified the organic product, verify that prohibited substances and methods were not used, certify that the terms of the partnership were met, and allow traded products to be tracked.
The European Union and the United States also will work on cooperation initiatives to promote organic production and deal with issues such as animal welfare. Programs from both governments will share technical information and best practices.
The U.S. organic market grew about 8% in 2010 to reach nearly $28.6 billion, according to the U.S.D.A. Organic exports reached about $1.8 billion in 2010, and the U.S.D.A. expects sales of organic exports to grow about 8% annually.
“Demand for organic products is growing even faster in Europe, at 10 to 15% per year despite the recession,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont. “By expanding our farmers’ opportunities to sell their organic product overseas, we are expanding the job opportunities and economic growth for organic agriculture in this country.
“This industry has come so far in the last 22 years, and reaching this new milestone will open doors to even more economic opportunities for our organic farmers and processors.”