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U.S. and Europe reach organic food agreement

Adriene Hill Feb 15, 2012

Adriene Hill: Now on to food news. The U.S. and European Union have reached a deal on organics: what counts as organic here will count as organic there, and vice versa. The rule goes into effect in June, and could open up new and lucrative markets to many organic farmers.

For more we go to Fred Kirschenmann. He’s a professor at Iowa State University and an organic farmer himself. Good morning Fred.

Fred Kirschenmann: Good morning.

Hill: What does this deal mean for organic farmers here in the U.S.?

Kirschenmann: You know, I think in the short-term at least, it’s going to provide additional markets and relationships. I think most organic farmers are always interested in developing relationships. And I have on my own farm, for example, have had relationships with European buyers for a long time, and they’ve been very interesting and useful.

I don’t know in the longer-term — you know, as energy costs go up — how much our production can continue to be involved in distance trading. But that’s something that we’re all going to have to adapt to, I guess.

Hill: Now which is better — U.S. organics or European? Which has a better set of standards?

Kirschenmann: That’s a really interesting question, and the Europeans have been at this a little bit longer. The IFOAM regulations and accreditation has been in place longer in Europe. And so, to some extent, they have a little bit better oversight than we have developed yet in the United States. But I think everybody is trying to strive for obviously uniform standards that everybody has to abide by.

Hill: Now will this deal end up costing U.S. consumers more if more U.S. farmers are sending their products over to Europe?

Kirschenmann: You know, I guess some of that depends on how much of our products go to Europe and how many European products — and from other countries — come to the United States. We have a lot of imports of organic food now, so we’ll have to see. I’m assuming that, to some extent at least, this is going to play by the same trade rules as any other commodities, and so we’ll have to see how it all plays out.

Hill: Professor Kirschenmann, thanks so much.

Kirschenmann: My pleasure.

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