Time to push for USDA standard of sustainable

09/14/2012 09:23:00 AM
Tom Karst

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.

Here is a discussion group poll question about the issue:

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?

tkarst@thepacker.com

What's your take? Leave a comment and tell us your opinion.


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Fernando Heiderich    
New Jersey US / Leme Br  |  September, 16, 2012 at 03:08 AM

Yes I think it would add value to the whole chain and the final customer. On top of that it would help developing an aligned / appropriate educational concept about sustainably produced. As done with organic, a well scientificaly defined & accepted concept will help significantly the community and avoid false messages & promises.

Richard Leibowitz    
New Jersey/ Santa Cruz  |  September, 19, 2012 at 12:42 AM

We need to let customers know that when they are buying produce that comes from soil that breathes, not only will it be nutrient dense, it will also absorb and retain more carbon. This is a fringe benefit can actually resolve greenhouse gasses, if we embrace this as an industry. And what a marketing program it would make. Eat a potato save the world! Not a bad tag line. How about earth freindly soil or heirloom soil. Consumers will feel that they are part of the solution and understand exactly how they are helping.

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