In a development that is expected to expand U.S. trade of organic produce and other organic goods with Europe, the U.S. and the European Union announced a partnership making their organic programs equivalent.
The formal agreement was signed at the BioFach World Organic Fair Feb. 15 in Nuremberg, Germany by Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan.
Dacian CioloÅ, European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, and Isi Siddiqui, U.S. Trade Representative Chief Agricultural Negotiator.
The agreement will enable, as of June 1, certified organic products to be traded freely between the U.S. and EU countries. The EU will recognize the USDA National Organic Program as equivalent to the EU Organic Program. That will allow products produced and certified as meeting USDA NOP standards to be marketed as organic in the EU, according to the agency. In return U.S. authorities will allow European products certified by the EU Organic Program to be marketed as organic in the U.S.
Another provision of the deal stipulates that antibiotics were not used to control fire blight in apples and pears for products entering the EU.
“We believe it is going to be huge,” said Barbara Haumann, spokeswoman for the Brattleboro, Vt.-based Organic Trade Association. “It has been very difficult for U.S. organic companies to export to the EU,” Haumann said.
She said various countries within the EU had put up barriers to organic trade, but the agreement is expected to knock down those access issues.
“Now this could really open it up,” Haumann said Feb. 15.
“This monumental agreement opens new possibilities for our farmers, and expands the value of their crops,” Florida citrus grower Matt Mclean, Organic Trade Association’s board president and president of Uncle Matt’s Organic Inc., Clermont, Fla., said in a statement.
Jake Lewin, chief certification officer with California Certified Organic Farmers, said in a statement that eliminating the distraction of multi-standard organic certification will make the industry more efficient.
“As a result of this agreement, we expect that more than 800 CCOF farmers and processors will see a reduction in their overall fees and complexity of certification,” he said in the statement.
Together, the U.S. and EU organic markets are valued at more than $50 billion, according to the agency. The U.S. organic market grew 8% and totaled nearly $29 billion in 2010, and the agency said the market is projected to grow 8% annually over the next several years.
The agency said more than two-thirds of U.S. consumers buy organic products at least occasionally, and 28% buy organic products weekly.
More than 2,000 specialty crop growers of organic products in California will be able to expand sales to the European market, Cathy Calfo, executive director of California Certified Organic Farmers, said in a statement.