Metrics on pesticide also are on the back burner for now, she said. “In 2010 we piloted a draft pesticide metric, but the group decided that risk wasn’t the proper focus to look at the issue, so it is a very important part of what the Stewardship Index will do, but at this point we’re just focusing on the four core metrics,” she said.
The Stewardship Index for Specialty Crop Index received a Conservation Innovation grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, which will cover the costs of much of the group’s activities through 2013. At this point, there are no membership fees connected with the effort.
Siegal said there are other initiatives looking at metrics for sustainable agriculture, but the Stewardship Index is the only one focused on specialty crops.
“We collaborate very closely with a number of them with a goal of identifying synergies and mutual strengthening of what we offer,” she said.
The Stewardship Index metrics have promise to help growers efficiently manage input use, said Kathy Means, Newark, Del.-based Produce Marketing Association vice president of government relations and public affairs,
“People are finding operational efficiencies and that contributes directly to the bottom line,” Means said. In addition, buyer and customer interest in sustainability measures is increasing, she said.