In the keynote address at the Organic Trade Association (OTA) All Things Organic Conference and Trade Show in Chicago this June, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) deputy secretary Kathleen Merrigan announced that an equivalency agreement has been reached between the USDA and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). This historic equivalency agreement will allow the continued smooth flow of certified organic products between the two countries and support the continued growth of this rapidly expanding market in North America. It is the first such equivalency agreement worldwide for the organic industry.

The official signing took place at the All Things Organic show during the State of the Organic Industry in North America session. The agreement, signed by the two government agencies, took effect June 30.

"This is the first step toward global harmonization of organic standards, and marks an historic moment for the organic community," Merrigan said in her address.

As a result of the historic equivalency agreement, certified organic products as of July 1 can continue to move freely across the U.S. and Canadian border provided they use the new Canada Organic Biologique label or the USDA Organic seal.

"Consumers will benefit from equivalency, as they have access to a more affordable range of organic products, increased product diversity, and a reliable supply chain. As a result, consumers will continue to have confidence in the organic integrity and government oversight of the products they buy," Christine Bushway, OTA's executive director, said in a press release.

Under equivalency, producers certified to NOP regulations by a USDA accredited certifying agent do not have to double-certify to the Canadian organic standards in order to meet Canadian labeling requirements when exporting to the Canadian market. Similarly, Canadian producers certified to Canadian organic standards by a CFIA accredited certifying body will be deemed equivalent to the NOP to meet the labeling requirements of the U.S. market when selling to the U.S.