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U.S. signs organic trade partnership with Japan

2013_0926_organic_japan The United States and Japan signed an organic trade partnership agreement today which takes effect January 1. From left are Anne Alonzo, administrator of the Agriculture Department’s Agricultural Marketing Service, Hiroyuki Kobayashi, director general of the Japanese Food Safety and Consumer Affairs Bureau, and Islam Siddiqui, U.S. chief agriculture negotiator. (Organic Trade Association)


The United States and Japan today announced that beginning January 1, organic products certified in Japan or in the United States may be sold as organic in either country.

Anne Alonzo, administrator of the Agriculture Department’s Agricultural Marketing Service, made the announcement at the Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore after formal letters creating this partnership were finalized at the expo. Signatures to the partnership are Alonzo, U.S. chief agriculture negotiator Islam Siddiqui, and Hiroyuki Kobayashi, director general of the Japanese Food Safety and Consumer Affairs Bureau.

The organics sector in the United States and Japan is valued at more than $36 billion combined, and rising every year, USDA said. The Obama administration has previously negotiated similar agreements on organic trade with Canada and the European Union.

Without an equivalency arrangement in place, organic farmers and businesses wanting to sell products in either country had to obtain separate certifications to meet each country’s organic standards, USDA noted. This typically has meant two sets of fees, inspections and paper work.

The U.S. and Japan organic standards cover the life cycle 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.

“This equivalency arrangement between the U.S. and Japan is a win for American farmers and processors and opens the door to future opportunities in Asia,” Alonzo said. “This partnership with Asia’s largest organic market increases the number of organic products on grocery store shelves, benefiting the organic industry and increasing jobs globally in the organic sector.”

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman also praised the agreement in statements, as did the U.S.-based Organic Trade Association.

“This monumental agreement will further create jobs in the already growing U.S. organic sector, spark additional market growth, and be mutually beneficial to producers both in the United States and Japan and to consumers who choose organic products,” said Laura Batcha, executive vice president of OTA.