U.S., Japan Sign Equivalency Arrangement on Organic Agricultural Products
The U.S. and Japan announced recently an equivalency arrangement under which organic plants and plant products certified in either country may be sold as organic in the other beginning Jan. 1, 2014. The U.S. has concluded similar arrangements with Canada and the European Union.
A Department of Agriculture press release states that this partnership “will streamline U.S. farmers’ and processors’ access” to Asia’s largest organic market and “sets the foundation for additional organic agricultural trade agreements in Asia.” Previously, organic farmers and businesses wanting to sell products in either country had to obtain separate certifications to meet each country’s organic standards, a system that has typically meant two sets of fees, inspections and paperwork. The new partnership reduces this burden by streamlining the export certificate process and eliminating the need for certified organic farmers and businesses in the U.S. to prove that they didn’t use a specific substance or production method to gain access to the Japanese organic market.
To make their equivalency determinations U.S. and Japanese technical experts conducted thorough on-site audits to ensure that their programs’ regulations, quality control measures, certification requirements and labeling practices were compatible. USDA states that the two sides will continue to have regular discussions and will review each other’s programs periodically to verify that the terms of the partnership are being met.