U.S., Korea streamline organic trade

Organic equivalency arrangement allows organic processed products certified in the United States or Korea to be labeled as organic in either country.

Since January, an expensive, time-consuming barrier had prevented U.S. organic products to be sold as such in Korea. Under a new arrangement that goes into effect July 1, 2014, organic processed products certified in the United States or Korea can now be labeled as organic in either country.

 

According to U.S. industry estimates, the United States exported approximately $35 million of processed organic products to Korea in 2013. Since January 1, 2014, when a change in Korea's regulations closed the market to U.S. organic exports, U.S. and Korean officials have been working to finalize the organic equivalency arrangement that was announced - the fourth such agreement established under the current Administration. 

 

Laura Batcha, CEO and Executive Director of the Organic Trade Assn., said the progress in Asia builds on the landmark equivalency arrangements with Canada in 2009 and the European Union in 2012, the two biggest trading partners for U.S. organic agriculture.

 

Estimates are that under the new streamlined trading system made possible by this arrangement will more than double over the next five years.

 

"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."

 

"America's organic farmers and businesses have a reason to celebrate," said Ambassador Michael Froman, U.S. Trade Representative. "We are committed to unlocking new opportunities for Americans and through this work we are delivering for the communities that depend on agricultural products. This deal serves as another foundation for future organic trade arrangements between the United States and other partners."

 

Without this equivalency arrangement in place, organic farmers and businesses wanting to sell organic processed products in either country would have to obtain separate certifications to meet each country's organic standards. This typically has meant two sets of fees, inspections, and paperwork, and delays for U.S. farmers and businesses trying to export. Similar to previous U.S. equivalency arrangements with Canada, the European Union, and Japan, this arrangement with Korea eliminates significant barriers, especially for small and medium-sized organic businesses.

 

This is Korea's first organic equivalency arrangement with any trading partner and serves as an example of how closely the United States is working with Korea to address emerging issues and strengthen the trade relationship, USDA said in a release.

 

Leading up to the announcement, U.S. and Korean technical experts conducted thorough on-site audits to ensure that their programs' regulations, quality control measures, certification requirements, and labeling practices were compatible.

The arrangement covers organic condiments, cereal, baby food, frozen meals, milk, and other processed products.

USDA said the United States and Korea are committed to ensuring that all traded organic processed products meet the terms of the arrangement, retaining their organic integrity from farm to market. Korea's National Agricultural Products Quality Management Service and the National Organic Program, part of the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service—which oversee organic products in their respective countries—will both take on key oversight roles.

The United States and Korea will continue to have regular discussions and will review each other's programs periodically to ensure that the terms of the arrangement are being met, according to a joint statement from USDA and the U.S. Trade Representative.

 

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