The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that the U.S. and Japan formed a partnership that will recognize the two organic programs as equivalent and allow access to each other's markets.
Formal letters creating this partnership were exchanged in Baltimore, Md., at Natural Products Expo East, one of the largest trade shows for organic products in the U.S. The equivalency arrangement was signed by 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 USDA continues to expand markets for American organic products abroad, works aggressively to break down barriers to trade, and assists U.S. businesses with the resources needed to reach consumers around the world. U.S. organic exports to Japan are currently estimated at $80 million, with growth due to the arrangement expected to reach at least $250 million in 10 years.
Through the National Organic Program, USDA has helped farmers and businesses create an industry that today encompasses over 17,000 organic businesses in the U.S. alone, and has grown to $35 billion annually in U.S. retail sales.
Representatives from the U.S. organic industry--including trade associations and organic producers--praised the U.S.-Japan partnership.
"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 Christine Bushway, executive director and CEO of the Organic Trade Association.
Lynn Clarkson, president of Clarkson Grain Co., Inc., said, "This is welcome news for the U.S. organic grain industry, which will see its products more easily traded and welcomed in the burgeoning Japanese market. Organic grains are a vital part of organic offerings and crucial to global trade."
"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. Nearly 600 of CCOF's farmers and processors will benefit directly and immediately from this change," said Jake Lewin, chief certification officer, California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF).
"This agreement is vital to specialty crop growers, who number more than 2,000 in California alone. These producers will be able to expand sales in a vibrant Japanese market, inspiring growth in a sector that is already creating jobs and economic opportunity," said Cathy Calfo, executive director, California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF).
Jenny Lester Moffitt, sales and marketing for Dixon Ridge Farms, said, "We increasingly live in a global economy. Any time countries can collaborate to eliminate or reduce trade barriers, the market is strengthened. This agreement will allow our company to greatly simplify exports to Japan, our largest export market for organic walnuts, and increase organic production here in the United States."
"All of us at Amy's Kitchen truly welcome this news. We are especially encouraged that the larger shared values and practices relative to organic and sustainable food production between us are no longer overshadowed by minor technical differences. This new understanding now facilitates an unimpeded flow of Amy's products into the Japanese market, creating jobs in our U.S. production facilities and making our organic offerings available to the many Japanese consumers who are seeking a higher-quality organic vegetarian meal option," said Andy Berliner, founder of Amy's Kitchen.