BALTIMORE, Md., Sep. 26, 2013—The United States and Japan today announced that beginning January 1, 2014, organic products certified in Japan or in the United States may be sold as organic in either country.

"This partnership reflects the strength of the USDA organic standards, allowing American organic farmers, ranchers, and businesses to access Asia's largest organic market," said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Vilsack.

The organics sector in the United States and Japan is valued at more than $36 billion combined, according to USDA.

Formal letters creating this partnership were finalized on September 26, 2013 in Baltimore, Maryland. Signatures to the partnership are Anne L. Alonzo, USDA Agricultural Marketing Service Administrator; Ambassador Islam Siddiqui, U.S. Trade Representative Chief Agricultural Negotiator; and Hiroyuki Kobayashi, Director General, Food Safety and Consumer Affairs Bureau. The announcement took place at Natural Products Expo East, one of the largest trade shows for organic products in the United States.

USDA explained that 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. This typically has meant two sets of fees, inspections, and paperwork. The department said the trade deal with Japan will be similar to previous U.S. equivalency arrangements with Canada and the European Union by eliminating significant barriers, especially for small and medium-sized organic producers.

According to today's announcement, 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.

Both parties individually determined that their programs were "equivalent" with no restrictions for organic plant and plant products. This means that—for the first time—certified organic farmers and businesses in the U.S. don't have to prove that they didn't use a specific substance or production method to gain access to the Japanese organic market, USDA noted.

Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Organic Program will both take on oversight roles.


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