U.S., Japan agree to organic equivalence

U.S., Japan agree to organic equivalence

New partnership allows certified organic products to move freely between U.S. and Japan without needing multiple certifications.

THE U.S. and Japan announced that, beginning in 2014, organic products certified in Japan or in the U.S. may be sold as organic in either country.

Formal letters creating this partnership were finalized on Sept. 26 in Baltimore, Md.

As a result, starting Jan. 1, 2014, certified organic products can move freely between the U.S. and Japan without needing multiple certifications.

Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Food & Fisheries (MAFF) will recognize the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Organic Program as equivalent to the Japanese Agricultural Standards (JAS) and the MAFF Organic Program. Likewise, the U.S. will allow Japanese products produced and certified under the JAS Organic Program to be marketed as organic in the U.S. Both countries will require that the accredited certifier be identified on the product label.

"This partnership reflects the strength of the USDA organic standards, allowing American organic farmers, ranchers and businesses to access Asia's largest organic market," U.S. 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. This partnership provides economic opportunities for farmers and small businesses, resulting in good jobs for Americans across the organic supply chain."

This partnership streamlines the export certificate process, which also reduces the paperwork burden for farmers and businesses. It also helps provide American consumers with year-round access to a diverse array of organic products.

Before the equivalency arrangement, organic farmers and businesses that wanted to sell products in either country had to obtain separate certifications, including duplicate fees, paperwork and inspections to meet each country's organic standards.

"As an organic certifier with a significant footprint in the west, we see the Japanese market as an important opportunity for organic companies. 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," said Jake Lewin, chief certification officer for California Certified Organic Farmers.

U.S. officials noted that the organic equivalence arrangement will reopen the important Japanese consumer market for U.S. organic producers of all sizes and will create jobs and opportunity for the U.S. organic food and farming sector.

Similar to previous U.S. equivalency arrangements with Canada and the European Union, this trade partnership with Japan eliminates significant barriers, especially for small and medium-sized organic producers.

Both parties said they are committed to ensuring that all traded organic products meet the terms of the partnership, retaining their organic integrity from farm to market.

Volume:85 Issue:41

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