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Korea Trade Deal Could Benefit Oregon Organic Food Processors

Wheat in Jackson County, Oregon.

Wheat in Jackson County, Oregon.

Amelia Templeton/OPB

A gallon of milk or a box of macaroni certified organic under U.S. regulations can now be exported and sold as organic in Korea, thanks to a trade partnership the two countries signed this week.

The agreement is supposed to make it easier for U.S. companies to market their products as organic, without having to go through South Korea’s stringent certification process. The U.S. struck a similar deal with Japan last year.

Jim Pierce, Global Certification Manager for Oregon Tilth, is a fan of the deal overall, but says it only applies to processed foods, and not fresh products.

“It includes the Korean definition of processing, which is either poorly translated, or just gray deliberately. We’re going to struggle with some products to define whether they’re processed or not,” says Pierce.

Bob’s Red Mill, the natural foods company based in Milwaukie, says it’s not sure whether the new agreement covers its flours and grains. South Korea is one of Oregon’s most important trade partners. Oregon companies also export organic ice cream, soups, berries, and beverages there.

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