If, aside from monetary gain, the ultimate goal for a sustainable standard is to gain transparency to the consumer base, a USDA label is not the most effective means to the end. Perhaps transparency, not necessarily labeling, has been the fuel driving the organic train. There is no doubt that collectively, conventional agriculture has a history of a shut-door policy in consumer outreach, which has allowed adversaries such at the EWG on the produce side and the likes of PETA on the animal-agriculture side to gain momentum.
But, is a sustainable label a way for conventional agriculture to become more favorable to consumers and narrow the perceived difference between organic and conventionally grown produce? Or will it result in increased pressure from retailers at the financial burden of the grower.
I would argue the latter.
This is simply another opportunity for government, activists, and consumers to dictate how farmers farm. There is enough “producer baby-sitting” going on in the regulatory world without adding a “voluntary” standard to comply with as well.
Let the marketers stick a label on the package if they see value, don’t subject the grower to the copious amount of paperwork and fees to comply with a standard that will inevitably be hijacked by activists anyway.
Why feed into activist demands and perpetuate the issue? It’s anyone’s guess what their next demand will be.
TK: Thanks to Alyssa and others at CCM who had input for providing this strong perspective. One of her comments spoke to the fact that every farmer is sustainable, "to a degree." Agricultural leaders have been working very hard to make this point, and it seems the message falls on deaf ears. My thought is that perhaps a USDA certification of sustainability/transparency would better communicate this reality to consumers.