As the finalization and implementation of Canada’s new organic standards draws closer, Canadian and U.S. officials continue to work on an equivalency agreement.
“We’re hopeful that there will be an equivalency agreement, and it’s looking like that will happen,” said Samantha Cabaluna, communications director for San Juan Bautista, Calif.-based Natural Selection Foods LLC.
The company has been following the issue closely and has a few staff members involved in committees that are discussing the initiative, she said.
The agreement would be particularly important, as Canada is the U.S.’s top trading partner, said Barbara Haumann, press secretary for the Organic Trade Association, Greenfield, Mass.
Officials in both Canada and the U.S. are meeting on this issue and working toward compromises where there are differences. Two big differences could hinder U.S. exporters at this point, only one of which is a fresh produce practice.
Canadian regulations prohibit the use of sodium nitrate, a mine mineral used in soil that is an accepted substance in certain organic farms in the U.S.
“It’s one of the bigger differences,” said Matthew Holmes, managing director of the Organic Trade Association in Canada.
Matthew Holmes, managing director of the Organic Trade Association in Canada, said there are two main issues holding up an organic equivalency agreement between Canada and the U.S.
Holmes is also one of four chairs of the Technical Committee on Organic Agriculture, part of the Canadian General Standards Board, responsible for the standards in the country. The committee advises the government officials working on the equivalency agreement in Canada.
“The approach we’ve taken at this point is that a lot of products on the market are grown with this, and we don’t want to shut out our suppliers. We want to give them some options,” Holmes said. “We’ve said we’re flexible on this. It may be a three-year phase-in or something similar.”
Officials from the U.S. and Canada, including representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Organic Program, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the Canada Organic Office, will continue to work out a solution to this issue, and other more minor issues, before and equivalency agreement can be met.