Historic Organic Trade Agreement

By / Magazine / September 10th, 2009 / 1

A new agreement between the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is giving organic farmers something to sing about. USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan dropped in to the Organic Trade Association (OTA)’s All Things Organic(TM) Conference and Trade Show to announce that an equivalency agreement has been reached. The agreement will allow farmers in each country to certify their products according to their own domestic organic standards, but they will be able to sell their products as organic in both American and Canadian markets. This is a first for the organic industry, which has been plagued by unclear standards and terms.

“This is the first step toward global harmonization of organic standards, and marks an historic moment for the organic community,” Merrigan told a standing-room-only audience at All Things Organic(TM).

For the average consumer, this agreement means that, as of July 1st, products can continue to move freely across the U.S. and Canadian border provided they use the new Canada Organic Biologique label or the USDA Organic seal. “Consumers will benefit from equivalency, as they have access to a more affordable range of organic products, increased product diversity, and a reliable supply chain. As a result, consumers will continue to have confidence in the organic integrity and government oversight of the products they buy,” said Christine Bushway, OTA’s Executive Director.

“The Government of Canada has just secured nearly unfettered access for Canadian organic farmers and food processors to a market that is over ten times the size of our own,” said Matthew Holmes, OTA in Canada’s managing director. “This is a major win for Canada’s quickly-growing organic sector, and provides our producers and processors with assurances that they are competing with a level playing field.”

Since the organic standards between the U.S. and Canada differ in some areas, the equivalency agreement will also include some restrictions, mostly to respect Canadian organic standards.

• Products won’t be allowed to come into Canada if they have been grown using sodium (“Chilean”) nitrate, a natural soluble nitrogen source.

• The American organic products that have been grown hydroponically won’t be allowed labeled as organic.

• The U.S. will ask American organic livestock producers to produce data to monitor whether they meet Canadian livestock density rates under Canada’s organic standards. In return, Canada has agreed not to allow any organic dairy products to sell to the U.S. market if antibiotics were used in their production.

For more information, go to www.ota-canada.ca


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