The other major issue deals with livestock, but could affect all other industries because an agreement may not be signed until every aspect of the organic certifications can be agreed opon.
“It’s possible to carve a sector out, but that would probably endanger the whole agreement,” Holmes said.
Both countries announced their intention to reach an organic equivalency agreement March 25. What’s more, government officials announced a target date of the June launch date for the Canadian organic standards for the agreement to be signed.
“This was the first time they publicly indicated their agreement to sign, and they named a deadline date to allow things to flow smoothly,” Holmes said.
The Canadian standards were published in January, and were open to comment through the end of April. The committee should spend between that time and June, when the standards go into effect, reviewing those comments and possibly implementing changes, he said.
After committee meetings mid-April, Holmes said the only proposed change so far that affected the fresh produce industry was one involving parallel production, which is allowed in the U.S. but prohibited in Canada.
The issue was not big enough to warrant recommending a change for the equivalency agreement for the U.S., but producers in Canada are still prohibited by the standard.
Parallel production involves growing two similar-looking items, such as two varieties of orange carrots, one of which is organic and the other conventionally grown, under the same management.
“You could grow orange carrots conventionally and purple carrots organically, or you could grow onions organically and carrots conventionally,” Holmes said. “But the feeling is in practice that may not be something that easily enforceable.”