The U.S. and Japan today announced that organic products certified in Japan or the U.S. may be sold as organic in either country, starting Jan. 1, 2014.
Until now, organic farmers and businesses wanting to sell products in either country had to obtain separate certifications to meet each country’s organic standards, typically requiring two sets of fees, inspections and paperwork.
“Today’s agreement will streamline access to the growing Japanese organic market for U.S. farmers and processors and eliminate significant barriers for small and medium organic producers, benefiting America's thriving organic industry,” said U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman in a written statement.
“This partnership reflects the strength of the USDA organic standards, allowing American organic farmers, ranchers and businesses to access Asia’s largest organic market,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. “It is a win for the American economy and sets the foundation for additional organic agricultural trade agreements in Asia.”
Formal letters creating this partnership were finalized today in Baltimore. The announcement took place at Natural Products Expo East, a trade show for organic products in the U.S.
Leading up to the announcement, U.S. and Japanese technical experts conducted on-site audits to ensure that their programs’ regulations, quality control measures, certification requirements and labeling practices were compatible. The U.S. and Japan organic standards cover the lifecycle of the product, including allowed and prohibited substances and natural resources conservation requirements. Both parties individually determined that their programs were “equivalent” with no restrictions for organic plant and plant products.
Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the USDA’s National Organic Program, which oversee organic products in their respective countries, will both take on oversight roles. The U.S. and Japan plan to have regular discussions and will review each other’s programs periodically to verify that the terms of the partnership are being met.
Representatives from the U.S. organic industry, including trade associations and organic producers, have praised the U.S.-Japan partnership:
“As an organic certifier with a significant foot print in the West, we see the Japanese market as an important opportunity for organic companies,” said Jake Lewin, chief certification officer of the California Certified Organic Farmers. “This agreement will benefit many small, medium and large organic businesses by reducing their costs, simplifying their certification and giving them access to the JAS seal, the official mark of organic products in Japan."
“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,” said Lynn Clarkson, president of Clarkson Grain Co. “Organic grains are a vital part of organic offerings, and crucial to global trade.”
“Any time countries can collaborate to eliminate or reduce trade barriers, the market is strengthened,” said Jenny Lester Moffitt, who is with sales and marketing for Dixon Ridge Farms, in a published remark. “This agreement will allow our company to greatly simplify exports to Japan our largest export market for organic walnuts, and increase organic production here in the United States.”