Wisconsin organic producers are concerned that South Korea could soon close its doors to U.S. organic products unless the two nations complete a pending trade deal.
The U.S. has what's called "organic trade equivalency" agreements with Canada, the European Union and Japan. That means the countries have similar organic rules and accept each other's produce, meat and dairy.
South Korea has been developing its own organic standards and it's been working with the U.S. on a trade agreement. Both sides wanted something signed by Dec. 31. If the deadline passes without an extension or final deal, South Korea will no longer accept U.S. organic products.
Harriet Behar, an organic specialist with Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service , said the two countries will work out a deal, but not by the deadline.
“It's just kind of this little bureaucratic hole that we're falling into. We're between the usual trade agreement and the new equivalency that is coming.” Behar said.
A possible disruption in trade has companies like Organic Valley concerned. The La Farge-based company has been selling products in South Korea and plans to expand its market there.
Behar said it takes a lot of work to get a new product into an overseas market, and even the slightest disruption can hurt a company.
“They'd have to start all over again. You know: get the shelf space, get consumers used to their label. All that work they've done, they'd have to start all over again in a year,” she said. “It's really unfair.”
U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin and 12 other colleagues have sent a letter to South Korea's ambassador, urging the country to pass an extension to avoid a disruption in trade.