Grower-shippers also may be thought of as self-serving if they create their own “green,” “earth-friendly” or “sustainable farming” label. A collective effort is required, I think.
Government seal of approval
Relative to the efforts of the Stewardship Index for Specialty Crops, industry can help craft the metrics that measure sustainability.
But the endgame should be a government seal. I think a “sustainably grown” U.S. Department of Agriculture certification/label should be a goal for our major trade associations during the next decade.
After all, haven’t we heard time and time again that the USDA’s national organic standards, implemented a decade ago, have been a prime impetus for the category’s impressive growth?
Consumers can buy into the standards because they are consistent and everyone plays by the same rules. Shoppers can understand what certification means, if they take time to investigate. More simply, they can look at the USDA seal and intuitively know that it means something.
Determining the parameters of what “sustainable” means will be a matter of debate, of course. I think that in the end, a “sustainably grown” certification will result in enhanced transparency.
Consumers who buy USDA-certified sustainable produce will see the inputs applied to the produce and the “continuous improvement” plan for each farming operation.
Naturally, not everyone will want to go through the hoops to earn “sustainably grown” certification.
Still, under the government-sanctioned sustainable growing certification model, growers and the entire supply chain should be able to add value to their produce without adding as much cost as strictly organic growing methods.
With the recent Stanford University study finding no substantial nutrition or food safety advantage to organic, there appears to be an opportunity for sustainable growing methods to step into the gap in the public consciousness.
Would USDA certification/labeling of “sustainable” farming practices for fresh produce bring value to the supply chain and to consumers? Why or why not?
I think it is time for a USDA certified “sustainably grown” label. What’s your view?