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June 2012 Organic Trade Policy Between U.S. and the European Union

How will the summer 2012 U.S.-Europe organic trade agreement affect organics?


Updated February 15, 2012

With news of the new US-Canada Organic Equivalence Arrangement still settling down, the European Union and the United States announced today, February 15, 2010, that as of June 1, 2012, organic products certified in the U.S. or Europe may be sold as organic in either region.

This is big news because Europe and America are the two largest organic-producers in the world. In fact, the organic industry of both is valued at more than $50 billion combined. Hopefully this new agreement will help develop a better and stronger foundation for promoting organic agriculture. Formal letters creating the new agreement were signed today, February 15, 2012 in Nuremberg, Germany, at the BioFach World Organic Fair, by Dacian Ciolos, European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development; Kathleen Merrigan, U.S. Agriculture Deputy Secretary; and Ambassador Isi Siddiqui, U.S. Trade Representative Chief Agricultural Negotiator.

U.S Deputy Agriculture Secretary Merrigan notes:

"This partnership connects organic farmers and companies on both sides of the Atlantic with a wide range of new market opportunities. It is a win for the American economy and President Obama's jobs strategy. This partnership will open new markets for American farmers and ranchers, create more opportunities for small businesses, and result in good jobs for Americans who package, ship, and market organic products."

The EU Commissioner responsible for agriculture and rural development, Dacian Ciolos added:

"This agreement comes with a double added value. On the one hand, organic farmers and food producers will benefit from easier access, with less bureaucracy and less costs, to both the U.S. and the EU markets, strengthening the competitiveness of this sector. In addition, it improves transparency on organic standards, and enhances consumers' confidence and recognition of our organic food and products. This partnership marks an important step, taking EU-U.S. agricultural trade relations to a new level of cooperation."

It's taken a lot of work to get to this new agreement, with both the U.S. and Europe holding thorough on-site audits to ensure that their programs' regulations, quality control measures, certification requirements, and labeling practices will be compatible.

Prohibition on the use of antibiotics was a main issue. USDA organic regulations prohibit the use of antibiotics except to control invasive bacterial infections (fire blight) in organic apple and pear orchards. The European Union allows antibiotics for infected animals. Due to these difference, if you're a producer trading under the new partnership, your certifying agent must verify that antibiotics were not used during production for any reason.

Other Facts About the New Organic Trade Agreement

  • Products traded under the new partnership must be shipped with an organic export certificate.

  • Both the U.S. and Europe are expected to maintain organic integrity from farm to market across the board. That goes without saying, but in order to handle this issue, the European Commission's Directorate General for Agriculture and Rural Development and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Organic Program will be addressing this important issue and taking on key oversight roles.

  • Periodic discussions and inspections may take place to verify that the terms of the partnership are being met on both ends.

  • The EU and U.S. are starting to plan, work on and implement a series of cooperation initiatives to promote organic production. This series will also address organic debates such as animal welfare.

  • Both programs are expected to share technical information and best practices on an ongoing basis. In this way organic integrity may be better maintained due to sound organic crop and livestock production systems.

Right now, the new agreement covers organic products exported from and certified in the United States or the European Union. If you're interested in learning more about how this new trade agreement will affect your business or product, visit the following links:

The joint press release on this new agreement offers the following contact resources:

  • Roger Waite, European Commission Spokesman for Agriculture and Rural Development, +(32) 2 296 14 04, roger.waite@ec.europa.eu.
  • Matt Herrick, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Communications: +1 (202) 720-4623, matthew.herrick@oc.usda.gov.
  • Andrea Mead, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, Office of Public and Media Affairs: +1 (202) 395-3230, Andrea_D_Mead@ustr.eop.gov.

Current as of February 15, 2010.

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