BALTIMORE – Organic products certified in Japan or in the United States can be sold as organic in either country starting Jan. 1, 2014. The organics segment is valued at $36 billion for the US and Japan combined. Formal letters creating the equivalency were finalized Sept. 26 in Baltimore.

"This monumental agreement will further create jobs in the already growing US organic sector, spark additional market growth, and be mutually beneficial to producers both in the United States and Japan and to consumers who choose organic products," said Christine Bushway, executive director and CEO of the Organic Trade Association.

The new agreement streamlines the export certificate process; without it, organic farmers and businesses wanting to export their products from either country were required to obtain separate certifications to meet each country's standards for organic. This has meant two sets of fees and inspections in addition to the paperwork.

"Today's agreement will streamline access to the growing Japanese organic market for US farmers and processors and eliminate significant barriers for small and medium organic producers, benefiting America's thriving organic industry," said US Trade Representative Michael Froman. "This represents another key step in strengthening our economic relationship with Japan by boosting agriculture trade between Japan and the United States, leading to more jobs and economic benefits for American farmers and businesses in this important sector."

US and Japanese technical experts conducted on-site audits to establish equivalency, covering criteria such as regulations, quality control measures, and certification requirements and labeling practices. The US and Japan will keep an open dialogue and will review programs to ensure equivalency is maintained. Similar equivalency agreements were made with Canada and the European Union.

"This partnership reflects the strength of the USDA organic standards, allowing American organic farmers, ranchers, and businesses to access Asia's largest organic market," said US 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."