US, Korea align standards on processed organic foods

A new agreement between the United States and South Korea will allow processed organic foods to be sold in either country without additional certification procedures. 

The deal aligns U.S. and Korean organic standards and restores access for U.S. organic processed food producers by removing expensive and time-consuming barriers that had been in place since January and had nearly halted sales of organic products to Korea.

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"This deal serves as another foundation for future organic trade arrangements between the United States and other partners," said U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman.

The arrangement, which takes effect Tuesday, is expected to boost the $35-million-a-year business of organic processed U.S. exports.

"Oregon food products that earned an organic certification in the United States don’t suddenly become less organic when they’re sold overseas,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

"This agreement will eliminate unnecessary restrictions that for too long have prevented U.S. organics exporters from using the organic label in Korea."

Without the equivalency arrangement, organic farmers and businesses had to obtain separate certifications to meet each country's organic standards.

That has meant two sets of fees, inspections and paperwork, leading to delays for U.S. businesses trying to export.

"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," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. 

Similar to previous U.S. equivalency arrangements with Canada, the European Union and Japan, this deal with Korea eliminates significant barriers, especially for small and medium-sized organic businesses, the USTR said.

This is Korea’s first organic equivalency arrangement with any trading partner and it covers organic condiments, cereal, baby food, frozen meals, milk and other processed products.