Travis Forgues is an organic dairy farmer in the town of Alburgh in northwest Vermont, almost at the Canadian border and surrounded on three sides by Lake Champlain. Like many of the other dairy farmers in northern Vermont, Travis is a realist. He went to college. He tried city life. But he was born into farming, and that’s how he wanted to raise his own family. So Travis went to his dad and had a talk about organic farming, and he convinced his father, and then many others, to convert their land from conventional agricultural practices to organic. As Travis saw it, organics was a growing niche within American agriculture, and consumer demand for organically produced dairy was taking off. Better still, consumers were willing to pay more for organic products. Today, as a result of Travis’ work, nearly 130 dairy farmers across New England have signed on to the “New England Pastures” organic dairy cooperative for Organic Valley.

Ten years have passed since the U.S. Department of Agriculture launched its National Organic Program (NOP). You may recognize the “USDA Organic” seal on thousands of fruits, vegetables, meat or other goods you can buy at the local market. The program combines detailed organic standards with a rigorous oversight and enforcement system. It also provides access to the U.S. market for imported organic products that meet our standards.

The integrity of this system has helped propel strong growth in consumer demand for certified organic products. Over the past decade, organic food sales more than quadrupled from $6.1 billion to nearly $27 billion. As organic exports expect to grow 8 percent annually over the next several years, this growth has also created important opportunities for international trade, supporting jobs here at home. While maintaining the rigor of the system and the trust of consumers, we can help drive further exports, economic growth, and support sustainable agricultural production by working to establish common organic standards with foreign nations.

Last week marked an important step forward for the organic food industry.  I was happy to announce that beginning June 1, products certified as organic in the United States or European Union can be sold as organic in the other market, reducing costs and removing burdensome barriers for thousands of U.S. organic farmers wanting to export their goods to Europe. This agreement between the world’s two largest organic producing markets is truly a game changer for America’s blossoming organic industry.

This comes following work in 2009 to establish a similar agreement with Canada. And we are working to establish similar partnerships with Japan, South Korea, and Mexico as well. The growth by the organic industry is just one part of the impressive story of American agriculture.