A key component of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service’s (AMS) work upholding organic integrity is providing the organic community with easy access to the National Organic Program’s (NOP) resources, to help producers and processors understand and comply with the USDA organic regulations.
In recent years, the presence of Spanish-speakers in the organic community has grown. In 2014, USDA-accredited certifying agents certified over 27,814 organic operations, one-third of which are located outside of the United States. 42 percent of international operations with USDA organic certification are in Spanish-speaking Latin America and the Caribbean.
USDA organic trade data also show that Latin America and the Caribbean countries play a central role in the U.S. organic market, particularly in filling demand for products such as coffee, fruits, and vegetables. Internal organic markets are also expanding within Latin America. For instance, last year, the United States exported over $100 million of organic products to Mexico alone. Meanwhile, in the United States, the number of Hispanic farmers increased by 21 percent between 2007 and 2012, and a 2014 Economic Research Service report shows that half of all hired farmworkers in the United States are Hispanic, many of whom speak Spanish as a primary language.
In response to these trends, AMS is working to make more of its resources accessible to Spanish-speaking stakeholders. Most notably, in 2014, the USDA organic regulations and the NOP Handbook were translated to Spanish. AMS also held its first Spanish-language certifier training in Costa Rica and has translated 17 certifier training modules into Spanish.
Cooperation with Latin American and Caribbean trading partners is another way that AMS is facilitating access to information for Spanish-speaking members of the organic community. For example, AMS continues discussions with Mexico to identify ways to coordinate on organic certification and trade. Much of this work requires sharing information and analyses of the two countries’ programs in Spanish.
AMS is also part of the Inter-American Commission for Organic Agriculture (ICOA), an inter-governmental organization that supports organic agriculture. ICOA’s initiatives are to promote trade, support internal market development, provide technical assistance, and ensure organic integrity through rigorous certification systems. AMS’ participation in ICOA’s work, which is also carried out primarily in Spanish, enables ongoing exchange of information about the NOP and the USDA organic regulations for our counterparts in Latin American and the Caribbean.
Engagement of Spanish-speaking organic stakeholders is increasingly important for the NOP’s success. AMS continues to explore ways to pursue this work which supports greater harmonization of organic regulatory systems, strengthens organic integrity, and facilitates market development with the Spanish-speaking sector of the organic community.