USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan has announced that the United States and the European Union have agreed two recognize the two nations’ organic programs as equivalent and allow access to each other's markets.

Formal letters creating this partnership were signed in Nuremberg, Germany, by Merrigan; Dacian Cioloş, European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development; and Ambassador Isi Siddiqui, U.S. Trade Representative Chief Agricultural Negotiator. The signing took place at the BioFach World Organic Fair, the largest trade show for organic products in the world.

Under President Obama, USDA has continued to expand markets for American goods abroad, worked aggressively to break down barriers to trade, and assisted U.S. businesses with the resources needed to reach consumers around the world, USDA officials pointed out.

Together, the U.S. and E.U. organic markets are valued at more than $50 billion. Under this agreement, estimates show the market for U.S. organics sales to the E.U. could grow substantially within the first few years. In 2010, the U.S. organic market grew nearly 8 percent to nearly $28.6 billion. USDA has worked to promote greater international organic trade. Organic exports reached approximately $1.8 billion in 2010, and that number is expected to grow 8 percent annually over the next several years. Today, more than two-thirds of U.S. consumers buy organic products at least occasionally, and 28 percent buy organic products weekly, according to USDA.

“Demand for organic products is growing even faster in Europe, at 10 percent to 15 percent per year despite the recession,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, (D-Vt.), who wrote the organic standards and labeling law in 1990. “By expanding our farmers' opportunities to sell their organic products overseas, we are expanding the job opportunities and economic growth for organic agriculture in this country.”

Matthew Holmes, world board member, International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) and ambassador under the Global Organic Market Access project, said: "We are very pleased today to see this achievement of organic equivalency between the United States and European Union. This is a major milestone in efforts to further harmonize and facilitate the trade of organic products globally. With the world's major organic systems working together, the impact on agriculture will be as profound as the potential for trade is massive."