U.S.-Korea organic certification deal comes into effect
Organic produce certified as 'organic' in the United States or South Korea can now labeled as such in either country, thanks to the recently formalized equivalency arrangement that came into effect on July 1.
The Organic Trade Association (OTA), which represents industry in the U.S. and Canada, welcomed the arrangement and said it would create jobs and opportunities for the American organic food and farming sector.
"We extend our thanks and congratulations to the officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative for their success after a year of rigorous negotiations," said OTA executive director and CEO Laura Batch in a release.
"OTA and the U.S. organic industry have worked diligently to help make this happen. This new pact streamlines the trade of organic processed food products between the two countries while still upholding the highest standards of organic oversight.
"It’s a win for the organic sectors and for the consumers of both nations."
According to U.S. industry estimates, American organic exports to South Korea, which were valued at around US$35 million in 2013, will more than double over the next five years.
Without this equivalency arrangement, organic farmers and businesses wanting to sell organic products in either country would have to obtain separate certifications to meet each country's organic standards.
This normally involved two sets of fees, inspections, and paperwork, along with delays for U.S. businesses trying to export.
The deal was formalized on June 30 in separate signings in Seoul and Washington, and covers organic condiments, cereal, baby food, frozen meals, milk, alcoholic beverages and other processed products.
Leading up to the announcement, U.S. and Korean technical experts conducted on-site audits to ensure their programs' regulations, quality control measures, certification requirements, and labeling practices were compatible.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said in a press statement the arrangement was an important step for the country's organic industry.
"Korea is a growing, lucrative market for U.S. organic products, and this arrangement increases demand for American organic products," Vilsack said.
"This is another chapter in the success story of organic agriculture, which provides more economic opportunities for American producers, more choices for consumers, and more jobs in rural communities across the country."
This is the United States' second such agreement in Asia, having made a similar deal with Japan last September. The U.S. also signed organic equivalency arrangements with Canada in 2009 and the EU in 2012.
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