Organic food and beverage manufacturers got some good news last week as the US and Switzerland agreed to an organic equivalency arrangement, which will streamline organic trade, strengthen organic agriculture and support jobs and businesses on a global level. Beginning last Friday, organic products certified in the US or Switzerland may be sold as organic in either country.
“The US organic industry has made significant progress under this Administration,” says Krysta Harden, USDA deputy secretary. “This is another chapter in the success story of organic agriculture, providing new economic opportunities for American producers, choices for consumers and jobs in rural communities across the country.”
According to USDA, the US organic industry has grown to include 19,000 businesses that account for $39 billion annually in retail sales. Since the start of the Obama Administration, the US has signed organic equivalency arrangements with Canada, the European Union, Japan, Korea and now, Switzerland.
“This arrangement is an important step in strengthening our economic relationship with Switzerland, in one of the fastest-growing segments of the agriculture economy. The opportunities provided by the arrangement will build on this trend and yield important benefits for producers and consumers alike,” says Darci Vetter, US trade representative chief agricultural negotiator.
In preparation for the announcement, experts from both countries conducted thorough on-site audits to ensure their regulations, quality control measures, certification requirements and labeling practices were compatible. The countries will periodically review each other’s programs to verify the terms of the arrangement are being met.
“This new arrangement has been three years in the making, and we thank and congratulate officials at USDA and the Office of the US Trade Representative [USTR] for their successful collaborative efforts,” says Laura Batcha, executive director and CEO of the Organic Trade Association (OTA). “Swiss consumers put a high value on food quality and nutrition, and they’ve made organic a part of their daily diets. Now they will be able to enjoy greater access to the high-quality organic products from the US.”
Robert Anderson, senior trade advisor for OTA, says it’s important to note the agreement will create access to Europe’s organic marketplaces and promotes a flow of ingredients between European countries and the US.
According to OTA, the Swiss organic market is experiencing steady growth, with the country’s citizens consuming the most organic products per person of any population in the world. Bio Suisse, the umbrella organization representing the Swiss organic sector, says organic retail sales in Switzerland jumped 12 percent in 2013 from the previous year, reaching almost $2 billion.