The United States and Japan agrees last week to that certified organic fruits and vegetables from either country may be sold as organic produce in both nations. This agreement takes effect January 1, 2014 and significantly streamlines American access to Japanese organic markets and removes notable trade barriers -- particularly for small and medium organic producers. It affects the combined $36 billion of organic produce grown in either country, as well as organic products that undergo final processing, packaging, or labeling in the U.S. or Japan to be sold as organic in both countries.
The U.S. and Japan organic standards cover the lifecycle of the product, including allowed and prohibited substances and natural resources conservation requirements. 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.
Organic products exported from the U.S. to Japan must be accompanied by an export certificate, also known as a TM-11, while those imported from Japan must travel with an NOP import certificate that has been completed by a certifying body in Japan. This certifying body must be accredited by either by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries (MAFF) or the USDA.
Oversight will be provided by Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries, and by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Organic Program in their respective countries. Each body will participate in periodic reviews and discussions to ensure the terms of the agreement are being met.
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.
“This partnership reflects the strength of the USDA organic standards, allowing American organic farmers, ranchers, and businesses to access Asia’s largest organic market,” notes U.S. Agriculture Secretary Vilsack. “It is a win for the American economy and sets the foundation for additional organic agricultural trade agreements in Asia. This partnership provides economic opportunities for farmers and small businesses, resulting in good jobs for Americans across the organic supply chain.”