Streamlined trade of organics between U.S. & European Union countries begins

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced today that organic products certified in the United States or European Union may now be sold as organic in either market, as trade opened up on Friday, June 1, under a new U.S.-EU equivalency partnership. Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan signed formal letters creating the partnership in February, along with Dacian Cioloş, European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, and Ambassador Isi Siddiqui, U.S. Trade Representative Chief Agricultural Negotiator.

“This partnership will open new markets for American farmers and ranchers, create more opportunities for small businesses, and result in good jobs for Americans who grow, package, ship, and market organic products,” said Merrigan. “In the months ahead, USDA will continue to work hard to expand opportunities for all U.S. products, including organics. Equivalency arrangements such as this are critical to growing the U.S. organics industry—they require careful negotiation to ensure that we maintain existing U.S. trade policies while ensuring that U.S. agricultural products will compete on a level playing field in world markets.”

The United States signed a similar partnership with Canada in July 2009, and additional equivalency arrangement conversations have begun with South Korea, Taiwan and Japan.

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.

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Ohio’s organic dairy producers and marketers score rare regulatory win over factory farms, ‘Big Ag’

In a little noticed decision one week ago, an Ohio Department of Agriculture dairy labeling rule that was more stringent than federal Food and Drug Administration policy was dropped by the agency to the cheers of family farmers and others involved in the organic dairy industry.

As of 2008, ODA had demanded that dairy producers and marketers attach government-approved qualifying statements to labels when claims such as “Hormone Free” were used on the labels. Organic producers have been especially incensed over the rule because they control their dairy herds’ environment to be free of pesticides and from administering growth and other hormones to dairy cows such as rBST, a synthetic bovine growth hormone routinely given to dairy cattle in factory farming environments.

With the rule, organic dairies had to add statements to their labels that were unfair – and many would say unfounded – qualifiers. Now, USDA Certified Organic producers will be able to tout that fact on their labels as well as letting consumers know, without qualification, that their product is hormone free.

“Ohio’s abandonment of this misguided rule is a victory for consumers, farmers and manufacturers alike,” said Christine Bushway, CEO of the Organic Trade Association. (OTA)

“The organic label is a federally regulated program that provides consumers with the knowledge that their food is produced without the use of antibiotics, pesticides or added growth hormones. Consumers have the right to make informed choices about the foods they eat, and farmers and manufacturers can continue to communicate truthfully with consumers” Bushway added.

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Beginning Farmers in New Knoxville Helping to Build Healthy, Sustainable Food System in Ohio

Deb Eschmeyer at the Bexley Farmers Market in late June


Jeff & Deb Eschmeyer come from a conventional agriculture background in a part of Ohio known for its expansive farms on good flat ground worked by generations of families of German descent.

Both Jeff and Deb grew up in farm families and for a time these high school sweethearts who now operate their own small farm acted on another convention of rural life – they left the farms and their small town of New Knoxville and sought their fortunes in various places — Chicago and Washington, D.C. among others. They pursued careers that intersected with agriculture, but “the farm” was far away as they held jobs like Legislative aide to former U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton (Jeff) and program director for the D.C.-based non-profit the National Family Farm Coaliiton (Deb).

Today however, the Eschmeyers have come full-circle in a sense and their place in the world and Ohio’s economy is anything but conventional.

Jeff Eschmeyer & OFU President Roger Wise at the Bexley Farmers Market

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