view current print edition




Equivalency agreement to ease organic trade between U.S. and Canada

by John Groh | June 21, 2009
CHICAGO -- The United States and Canada signed a historic equivalency agreement that will allow the smooth flow of certified-organic products between the two countries and support the continued growth of the rapidly expanding organic market in North America.

The agreement -- the first of its kind for the organic industry -- was signed June 17 during the Organic Trade Association's All Things Organic conference and trade show, held here June 16-18.

"This is the first step toward global harmonization of organic standards and marks a historic moment for the organic community," Kathleen Merrigan, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said during her keynote address at the All Things Organic conference and trade show, held hours before the official signing.

As a result of the agreement, which takes effect June 30, certified-organic products will move freely across the U.S.-Canadian border provided that they carry the Canada Organic Biologique or USDA Organic seal.

U.S. producers that have met National Organic Program regulations and that have been certified by a USDA-accredited agent will not have to double- certify to meet Canadian organic standards in order to meet Canadian labeling requirements when exporting to the Canadian market. As well, Canadian producers certified to Canadian organic standards by an agency accredited by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency will be considered to be in compliance with U.S. National Organic Program standards when selling to the U.S. market.

"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," Christine Bushway, executive director of the Organic Trade Association, said in a press release issued the day of the signing. "As a result, consumers will continue to have confidence in the organic integrity and government oversight of the products they buy."

Barbara Robinson, deputy administrator of the USDA's transportation and marketing programs, who also serves as acting director of the National Organic Program, said following the signing, "We have effectively lifted our border [with Canada] to allow more trade. We are very proud of this agreement and the teams that worked behind it."

Michel Saumur, manager of the CFIA's Canadian Organic Office, added that the agreement has been in the works for two years and that the next step is to establish a U.S.-Canadian working group, along with administrative procedures and a list of certifying agencies.

The first official meeting between the two countries toward the equivalency agreement is scheduled for September.