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U.S.-Japan Bilateral Export Agreement

by Jon Knapp |

Great News! Just recently, the USDA National Organic Program and the Japan Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries (MAFF) signed a bilateral equivalency agreement, going into effect January 1, 2014. This agreement eases the process for organic exports to Japan by eliminating additional requirements for exported products and providing new options for use of the Japanese organic seal (“JAS seal”).

Previously, we had to conduct additional verification, through our Global Market Access program, of all farmers whose crops were used as ingredients in products exported to Japan. To everyone’s benefit, this additional program enrollment and verification will no longer be necessary for anyone except companies that directly export to Japan. This will result in an annual savings of $125 in certification fees for a large number of farmers and ingredient suppliers.

Previous restrictions on humic acids and lignin sulfonate will no longer apply for producers of organic products that will be shipped to Japan, and CCOF will no longer ask for documentation regarding the use of these materials. Exporters no longer need to request verification of approval from their suppliers.

In addition to the removal of supplier verification requirements, there are new options for the use of the JAS seal, which is required on all organic plant and plant-based products sold in Japan. This seal can now be applied in the United States or by the importer in Japan. For companies that directly export to Japan, we have set up a new Japan Export program to support the use of appropriate labels with importers of products and facilitate direct JAS certification if necessary. More details about this program have been sent to companies exporting directly to Japan. If you are considering direct exports to Japan and want more information about this program, visit our Japan web page or contact

We make sure to provide certification services that help guide exports to Japan and elsewhere, and are proud of our efforts that contributed to the development of this equivalency agreement. CCOF worked hard to express the importance of easing export requirements to the U.S. Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) and USDA National Organic Program (NOP). We also allowed Japanese officials to review CCOF certification systems and helped facilitate tours of CCOF-certified operations. We are committed to staying actively engaged in export and other issues to help represent the needs of our clients and solve problems that inhibit trade of CCOF certified organic product.

We have sincere appreciation for all the public and private partnerships, MAFF, FAS, and NOP for making this equivalency possible.

Information, including frequently asked questions about the agreement, will be available on the National Organic Program Japan page. The Organic Trade Association also provides excellent information about international trade, including up-to-date details about the Japanese market.