U.S. organic dairy, beef, sheep, goat, and bison producers exporting products to Canada will benefit from more streamlined trade.

In the U.S., these animals, referred to as ruminants, must receive 30 percent of their feed during the grazing season from organic pasture and must be out on pasture at least 120 days per year. In addition to these pasture requirements, operations must provide adequate space and living conditions which accommodate the natural behavior of livestock. This includes year-round access to the outdoors.

Canada now considers these U.S. requirements as equivalent to its standards for ruminant stocking rates, or the number of animals in a given area.

“The USDA organic regulations hold ruminant producers to strict standards,” noted Miles McEvoy, Deputy Administrator of the USDA National Organic Program. “We are pleased that Canada agrees that these requirements meet or exceed its standards.”

This change reflects efforts by both countries to harmonize standards and move toward full equivalence. Products from non-ruminant animals, such as poultry and swine, must still verify that they meet the Canadian stocking rates for those species.

As a result, one of the additional requirements—referred to as critical variances—no longer applies to ruminant animals and animal products traded under the U.S./Canada Organic Equivalency Arrangement. Organic operations in both countries must meet each of these critical variances before products can be sold, labeled, or represented as organic across the border.

On June 17, 2009, the USDA and Canada Food Inspection Agency entered into an Equivalence Arrangement. This means that as long as the critical variances and other terms of the arrangement are met, organic operations certified to the USDA organic or Canada Organic Regime standards may be labeled, represented, and sold as organic in both countries.

The updated critical variances in the trade arrangement now include:

Canada Requirements. To be sold, labeled, or represented as organic in Canada, USDA organic products must meet the following additional requirements:

  • Agricultural products produced with the use of sodium nitrate shall not be sold or marketed as organic in Canada.
  • Agricultural products produced by hydroponic or aeroponic production methods shall not be sold or marketed as organic in Canada
  • Agricultural products derived from animals (with the exception of ruminants) must be produced according to livestock stocking rates as set out in CAN /CGSB32.310-2006 (amended October 2008).

United States Requirements. To be sold, labeled, or represented as organic in the United States, Canadian organic agricultural products derived from animals must be produced without antibiotic treatment.

The National Organic Program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture facilitates trade and ensures integrity of organic agricultural products by consistently implementing the organic standards and enforcing compliance with the regulations.

For further information about the Canada trade arrangement, contact Miles McEvoy at (202) 720-3252.