United States and Japan today sign organic equivalence arrangement

Marks first U.S. organic arrangement in Asia, and first-ever without organic standards exceptions

BALTIMORE, Sept. 26, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Officials from Japan and the United States announced the signing of an organic equivalence arrangement between the two countries in ceremonies this morning at All Things Organic here at Natural Products Expo East. Present at the announcement were Mr. Satoshi Kunii, Director, Labeling Standards Division, and Mr. Takuro Mukae, Associate Director, Sanitary and Phytosanitary Affairs, of Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries (MAFF) for Japan, and Administrator Anne Alonzo of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Marketing Service and Ambassador Isi Siddiqui of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative for the United States.

(Photo:  http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20130926/DC87347)

U.S. officials noted 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.

"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 the U.S.-based Organic Trade Association (OTA).

Assessments conducted in Japan and the United States leading up to the signing found organic management, accreditation, certification and enforcement programs are in place in both countries, and conform to each other's respective programs. The first two-way trade agreement in Asia also marks the first organic equivalency arrangement without organic standards exceptions.

As a result, certified organic products as of Jan. 1, 2014 can move freely between the United States and Japan. Under the agreement, MAFF will recognize USDA's National Organic Program (NOP) as equivalent to the Japanese Agricultural Standards (JAS) and the MAFF Organic Program, and will allow products produced and certified as meeting USDA's NOP standards to be marketed as organic in Japan. Likewise, the United States will allow Japanese products produced and certified under the JAS Organic Program to be marketed as organic in the United States. Both countries will require that the accredited certifier must be identified on the product label.

"On behalf of the U.S. organic industry, OTA extends its sincere thanks and congratulations to the U.S. government and MAFF Japan teams that brought equivalency between our nations after a decade of rigorous and thoughtful negotiations," said Batcha. She noted that OTA and the U.S. organic industry advised, advocated for, and facilitated progress towards this historic arrangement.

In June 2009, the United States and Canada signed the first equivalency agreement in the world for the organic industry.  This was followed with an agreement signed by the United States and EU in February 2012 recognizing each other's organic standards as equivalent, fully effective June12, 2012.

Further details and background information about this latest agreement are available on OTA's website. Also NOP has posted extensive information related to the agreement.

During 2013, the Organic Trade Association launched its Global Organic Trade Guide, the world's first user-friendly website to help U.S. organic producers and handlers export organic products. The site also features an in-depth Market Data section and the only map tool to communicate global organic trade information in real time to U.S. farmers, ranchers, and food processors looking to export organic products to Japan and the world.

The Organic Trade Association (OTA) is the membership-based business association for organic agriculture and products in North America. OTA is the leading voice for the organic trade in the United States, representing over 6,500 organic businesses across 49 states. Its members include growers, shippers, processors, certifiers, farmers' associations, distributors, importers, exporters, consultants, retailers and others. OTA's Board of Directors is democratically elected by its members. OTA's mission is to promote and protect the growth of organic trade to benefit the environment, farmers, the public and the economy.

SOURCE Organic Trade Association



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