The U.S. and South Korea have announced a partnership that will recognize each other’s organic programs as equivalent, paving the way for lateral organic shipments between the two countries.

According to U.S. industry estimates, the U.S. exported approximately $35 million of processed organic products to South Korea in 2013.

“USDA has worked aggressively to expand markets for American organic products around the world,” said Anne Alonzo, Agricultural Marketing Service Administrator. “Opening the Korean organic market to American producers will benefit the thriving organic sector and create opportunities across the organic supply chain and in rural communities.”

The National Organic Program, part of USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service, has helped farmers and businesses create an industry that today encompasses more than 18,000 organic businesses in the U.S. and accounts for $35 billion annually in retail sales.

Representatives from the U.S. organic industry, including trade associations and organic producers, praised the partnership.

“We welcome the reopening of the important Korean market to the U.S. organic sector,” said Laura Batcha, executive director and chief executivew officer (CEO)with the Organic Trade Association. "Korean consumers, like consumers in the United States, are eagerly buying more organic products as they become more informed about the benefits of organic.”

Batcha expects organic market growth to continue to expand in the U.S. due to the agreement.

Bob Anderson, senior trade advisor to the Organic Trade Association, says the agreement validates current USDA organic standards.

“Removing a significant trade barrier to organic exports to Korea, just nine months after the organic trade arrangement with Japan, demonstrates the tremendous momentum and desire for U.S. organic products worldwide,” Anderson said.

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“This is welcome news for the U.S. organic dairy industry,” said Organic Valley CEO George Siemon.

Jaclyn Bowen, general manager of Quality Assurance International, an organic certifying agency, believes the agreement will simplify organic certification and help reduce the business costs associated with those certification protocols.