(NAFB)--Beginning January 1st - organic products certified in Japan or in the U.S. may be sold as organic in either country. That was the announcement from the two countries Thursday - which is expected to streamline access to the growing Japanese organic market for U.S. farmers and processors. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the partnership reflects the strength of the USDA organic standards - allowing American organic farmers, ranchers and businesses to access Asia’s largest organic market. He calls it a win for the American economy and says it sets the foundation for additional organic agricultural trade agreements in Asia. According to Vilsack - the partnership provides economic opportunities for farmers and small businesses - resulting in good jobs for Americans across the organic supply chain. U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman adds that the agreement will eliminate significant barriers for small and medium organic producers - benefiting America’s thriving organic industry. He says it represents another key step in strengthening our economic relationship with Japan. The organics sector in the U.S. and Japan is valued at more than 36-billion dollars combined - and it’s rising every year.
Ahead of this historic announcement - U.S. and Japanese technical experts conducted thorough on-site audits to ensure the regulations, quality control measures, certification requirements and labeling practices of their programs were compatible. Both parties individually determined that their programs were "equivalent" with no restrictions for organic plant and plant products. 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. Now - 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. This partnership streamlines the export certificate process - which also reduces the paperwork burden for farmers and businesses. It also helps provide American consumers with year-round access to a diverse array of organic products.