As of June 1, 2012, organic products certified in the United States or European Union may now be sold as organic in either market, under a new U.S.-EU equivalency partnership.

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan signed formal letters creating the partnership in February, along with the European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, and Ambassador Isi Siddiqui, U.S. Trade Representative Chief Agricultural Negotiator.

Previously, producers and companies wanting to trade products on both sides of the Atlantic had to obtain separate certifications to two standards, which resulted in a double set of fees, inspections, and paperwork. The partnership existing now eliminates these significant barriers, which is especially helpful for small and medium-sized organic farmers. During negotiations, both parties conducted thorough on-site audits to ensure that their programs' regulations, quality control measures, certification requirements and labeling practices were compatible.

"This agreement provides economic opportunities for certified organic farmers as well as additional incentives for prospective farmers," said Miles McEvoy, National Organic Program Deputy Administrator.

McEvoy who will speak at ASTA's 129th Annual Convention in the Organic Seed Committee added that he looks forward to working with his European Union counterparts to support organic agriculture.

The United States and the European Union will continue to have regular discussions and review each other's programs periodically to verify that the terms of the partnership are being met.

The arrangement covers products exported from and certified in the United States or the European Union only. All products traded under the partnership must be shipped with an organic import certificate, which shows the location where production occurred, identifies the organization that certified the organic product, and verifies that growers and handlers did not use prohibited substances and methods.

In addition to certifying that the terms of the partnership were met, the certificates also allow traded products to be tracked. Both parties are committed to ensuring that products traded under the agreement retain their organic integrity from farm to market. The European Commission's Directorate General for Agriculture and Rural Development and the USDA National Organic Program-which oversees all U.S. organic products-will take on key oversight roles.

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. U.S. agriculture is currently experiencing one of its best periods in history thanks to the productivity and resourcefulness of our producers.

Overall, American agriculture supports 1 in 12 jobs in the United States and provides American consumers with 83 percent of the food we consume, while maintaining affordability and choice. Strong agricultural exports contribute to a positive U.S. trade balance, create jobs and boost economic growth.

For additional details on the trade partnership, please visit http://www.ams.usda.gov/NOPTradeEuropeanUnion or contact the National Organic Program at 202-720-3252.