I just finished teaching 6 spring gardening classes on organic horticulture and promised several interested students I would blog about a frequently asked question that came up in class.  So here it is!

Q:  Can growers in other countries outside of the U.S. import produce labeled as organic into the U.S.?

A:  During each class, we discussed policies and regulations surrounding the term ‘organic’.  U.S. growers that sell $5000 or more of produce to the public must become USDA Certified Organic if they wish to market and label their produce as ‘organic’.  But the question arose, what about growers outside of the U.S.?  Can they import and label their produce as ‘organic’ too?  I wasn’t sure at the time so I looked into this question.  Here is what I found from the USDA Agriculture Marketing Service.  For the full link, click here.

FAQ: Organic Trade Agreements

  • Yes, the NOP has trade agreements with multiple countries. These relationships allow indirect accreditation of a number of foreign agencies in their respective countries.
  • Specific details by nation

A brief description of the types of trade agreements are described below.

Equivalency Arrangement. An equivalency agreement is an agreement between two countries allowing products that are produced and certified according to one country’s organic standards to be sold and represented as organic in the other country. The NOP has an equivalency agreement with the Canada Organic Regime, the European Union, and Japan.

Recognition Agreements. A recognition agreement allows a foreign government to accredit certifying agents in their country in adherence with the USDA organic regulations. The certifying agents can then certify organic products only in that country to the USDA organic standards. The NOP has recognition agreements with the following nations:

  • India
  • Israel
  • Japan (through September 26, 2014)
  • New Zealand

Export Arrangements. An export arrangement allows U.S. organic products to be sold as organic in the receiving country, provided specific requirements are met. An export certificate (TM-11 (PDF)) must be filled out by USDA-accredited certifying agents and accompany shipments to these countries. The NOP has export arrangements with the following nations:


So there you have it, straight from the USDA AMS!  Thanks for the great questions and please keep them coming!