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USDA Official Says New Organic Standards Won’t Affect Export Market

January 8, 1996

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) _ The U.S. Department of Agriculture is assuring growers of organic produce they still will be able to export to Europe under new national standards for organic products.

The rules that take effect in the fall will replace standards currently enforced by 11 states and 33 private organizations that certify organic producers, said Hal Ricker, who is in charge of formulating the national standards for USDA.

Organic growers are concerned about losing their share of the European market if the U.S. standards are lower than international standards. Europe recognizes products as organic if they meet standards set by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements.

``I have always maintained that the product can be sold internationally if it’s prepared to meet the buyer’s specifications,″ Ricker said last week at Marketplace ’96, an economic development fair in Bismarck.

``We’ve also said that you can use a seal of a private certifier on that product that’s going overseas to represent that standard, but you can’t use that seal to represent a different standard within the United States,″ Ricker said.

USDA will publish in the next few months a preliminary list of materials that will be banned for products certified as organic, Ricker said. The department will take public comment on the proposals and may make changes before they take effect in the fall.

``What he has done is he has provided some negotiating room so this can be resolved,″ said Jim Kusler, general manager of Prairie Organic, a Bismarck marketing cooperative. ``But what the outcome will be we’re still unsure. ... Until they’re final, we will continue to make our case.″

USDA will accredit states and private groups to certify that organic producers are in compliance with the national standards.

``We’re very concerned about the process that’s going to be used for accreditation of certifiers,″ said Terry Jacobson, chairman of the certifying committee for Farm Verified Organic of Medina, N.D., a private organization that has been certifying organic products for more than 20 years.

Jacobson said Farm Verified and other private certifiers have a much deeper knowledge of the process.

``There’s going to be political pressure on the federal government to recognize state certification organizations. There will be political clout there that no private certifier can exert,″ he said. ``I think that is ... an issue that needs to be addressed if our USDA seal is going to have credibility.″

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MIAMI (AP) _ The carambola, a Southeast Asian fruit, is becoming a profitable crop for some Florida growers. Thanks to federal researchers, it soon may be exported to Japan.

For a time, shipments to California, home to many Asian immigrants, were banned because of fears the carambolas would carry Caribbean fruit flies and threaten California citrus.

Scientists at the Agricultural Research Service station in Miami responded by developing a process in which the fruit are held at 34 degrees for 12 days before shipment. That ended the fruit-fly threat and cleared the way for shipments to California.

Now, Japan has authorized importation of carambolas that undergo the cold treatment.