Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan announced that the United States and the European Union formed a partnership that will recognize the two organic programs as equivalent and allow access to each other's markets. Formal letters creating this partnership were signed earlier today in Nuremberg, Germany, by Merrigan; Dacian Cioloş, European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development; and Ambassador Isi Siddiqui, U.S. Trade Representative Chief Agricultural Negotiator. The signing took place at the BioFach World Organic Fair, the largest trade show for organic products in the world.

Under President Obama, USDA has continued to expand markets for American goods abroad, worked aggressively to break down barriers to trade, and assisted U.S. businesses with the resources needed to reach consumers around the world. Together, the U.S. and EU organic markets are valued at more than $50 billion. Under this agreement, estimates show the market for U.S. organics sales to the EU could grow substantially within the first few years. In 2010, the U.S. organic market grew nearly 8 percent to nearly $28.6 billion. And USDA has worked to promote international organic trade. Organic exports reached approximately $1.8 billion in 2010, and that number is expected to grow 8 percent annually over the next several years. Today, more than two-thirds of U.S. consumers buy organic products at least occasionally, and 28 percent buy organic products weekly.

Representatives from the U.S. organic industry—including trade associations and organic producers—praised the U.S.-EU partnership.

Senator Patrick Leahy, United States Senator (Vt.)

"I commend the Department of Agriculture for reaching this important agreement with the European Union, one of our largest trading partners. Since I wrote the organic standards and labeling law in 1990, organic production has become a vital component of Vermont's agriculture and the fastest growing sector of U.S. agriculture. Demand for organic products is growing even faster in Europe, at 10 to 15 percent per year despite the recession. By expanding our farmers' opportunities to sell their organic products overseas, we are expanding the job opportunities and economic growth for organic agriculture in this country. This industry has come so far in the last 22 years, and reaching this new milestone will open doors to even more economic opportunities for our organic farmers and processors."

Matt Mclean, Organic Trade Association's Board President and President of Uncle Matt's Organic-Florida citrus grower and marketer

"This is truly a great day of celebration for U.S. producers of organic products. This monumental agreement opens new possibilities for our farmers, and expands the value of their crops. The EU market will beckon more U.S. producers who have the capacity to produce organic products for export. At the same time, the agreement will make it easier for U.S. manufacturers to obtain ingredients that they need to import from the EU.

Lynn Clarkson, President of Clarkson Grain Co. Inc.

"This is welcome news for the U.S. organic grain industry, which will see its products more easily traded and welcomed in the burgeoning EU market. Organic grains are a vital part of organic offerings, and crucial to global trade."

Jake Lewin, Chief Certification Officer, California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF)

"Eliminating the distraction of multi-standard organic certification will strengthen the application of organic standards nationwide. As a result of this agreement, we expect that more than 800 CCOF farmers and processors will see a reduction in their overall fees and complexity of certification. I cannot wait to tell this to our farming and processing clients who have been managing multiple certification programs for years. These dedicated individuals can now turn their attention to managing their operations and producing more organic goods instead of chasing paperwork for overlapping standards. "

Cathy Calfo, Executive Director, California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF)

"This agreement is vital to specialty crop growers, who number more than 2,000 in California alone. These producers will be able to expand sales in a vibrant European Union market, inspiring growth in a sector that is already creating jobs and economic opportunity. Organic is the sole U.S. agricultural sector that is realizing growth in sales and jobs, according to 2011 reports.

Matthew Holmes, World Board Member, International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) and Ambassador under the Global Organic Market Access project

"We are very pleased today to see this achievement of organic equivalency between the United States and European Union. This is a major milestone in efforts to further harmonize and facilitate the trade of organic products globally. With the world's major organic systems working together, the impact on agriculture will be as profound as the potential for trade is massive."

Gary Hirshberg, Co-Founder and Chair, Stonyfield Farm; Advisory Member, Advisory Committee for Trade Policy & Negotiations ( ACTPN)

"This agreement is good for trade, but more importantly it's a win for American farmers and consumers. It's a win for farmers because it opens up new markets, and a win for consumers because it upholds Americans' high expectations for the integrity of the organic standard, including a provision that will ensure that any dairy or meat that is exported from the EU to the US can't be treated with antibiotics."

George Siemon, C-E-I-E-I-O and founding farmer, Organic Valley Cooperative

"This is an historic agreement toward building the organic movement and industry. Organic Valley as a farmer-owned cooperative continues to support the hard work of USDA to standardize and protect the organic program. Equivalency will expand and enable the organic farming movement on both continents."

Travis Forgues, Organic Valley farmer in Vermont

"As an organic dairy farmer, I am heartened by news of the EU-U.S organic equivalency. Organic standards have long been something we have shared with Europe, and exports can help more U.S. farmers stay farming the land."

Jenny Lester Moffitt, Sales and Marketing for Dixon Ridge Farms

"We increasingly live in a global economy. Any time countries can collaborate to eliminate or reduce trade barriers, the market is strengthened. This agreement will allow our company to expand our market for organic walnuts, and increase organic production here in the United States."

Andy Berliner, founder of Amy's Kitchen

"All of us at Amy's Kitchen truly welcome this news. We are especially encouraged that the larger shared values and practices relative to organic and sustainable food production between us are no longer overshadowed by minor, technical differences. This new understanding now facilitates an unimpeded flow of Amy's products into the European market, creating jobs in both our U.S. and UK production facilities and making our organic offerings available to the many EU consumers who are seeking a higher-quality organic vegetarian meal option."

Christine Bushway, Executive Director and CEO of the Organic Trade Association

"This long-awaited agreement is a momentous step toward growing organic trade between the world's two largest consumer markets for organic food. It will mean more open avenues for organic producers, and will encourage U.S. farmers to expand their acreage to produce more environmentally sustainable crops."