( The Packer )

Two days into a week-long poll, industry operators are weighing in on the question “What is the top sustainability priority for your company?"

With 56 votes and 16 comments, here are the results to date:

  • Soil health: 13%;
  • Reduce plastic packaging: 30%;
  • Increase water efficiency: 20%; and
  • Farmworker well being 38%.



The poll only allowed for four options, and readers have pointed out that is not sufficient. Don’t forget about the sustainability of the farmer, readers said:


  • "Economic sustainability is key, because poor and broke people take shortcuts,  like the people who dump tires and garbage on our farms;"
  • "Making sure the farmer is able to be in business the following year"

The world versus plastic: Regarding pushing down the use of plastic, Japan, starting today, will require all retailers to charge a fee for the use of plastic shopping bags, with the exception of biodegradable plastic bags and plastic bags containing at least 25% of renewable plant-based materials.

The exemption, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service report, is expected to increase demand for biomass-based plastic bags.

In my view, sustainability progress needs the encouragement of government regulations.

From the report:  

"Every year Japan generates about 9 million metric tons (MMT) of plastic waste, of which 4 MMT are from single-use plastics. Japan’s annual consumption of plastic bags is approximately 45 billion sheets, of which 30 percent are provided by convenience stores at the point of sale.

On May 31, 2018, the Government of Japan (GOJ) released the Plastic Resource Recycling Strategy. GOJ committed to a 25 percent reduction in single-use plastic consumption by 2030. Simultaneously, GOJ aims to double the use of renewable biomass plastics to about 2 MMT by 2030. Biomass-based plastics are manufactured from renewable materials, such as corn-based ethanol, wood fiber, starch and others.”


The top vote-getter so far in our sustainability priorities poll is farmworker well being. Consumers are aware of this issue, as a pop up poll on our coverage of the Dirty Dozen list 

One consumer responding to the poll question “What is your level of trust in fresh produce?” said this:

"During the Covid 19 outbreak, not too trusting, as farmworkers are not given proper paid time off to care for themselves during this pandemic. I think it is crucial that everyone have the same opportunity to call in sick without losing a paycheck during this unprecedented time we are going through. Keeping the workers safe and healthy means we are all safe and healthy!"


When asked to explain “why,” the same reader said:

"This is important in order to keep covid 19 under control. Keeping the workers safe and without risk of losing their jobs and paid time off will assure they will do the right thing, simply because they can! Without paid time off if they have covid 19, they have no way of making ends meet. They need to work whether they have covid 19 or not and that is not safe for the rest of us. Making an exception at this time to pay time off for covid is the right thing to do."


COVID-19 is unlike anything the industry has ever faced, and the considerable efforts to prevent the spread of the virus have fallen short, in part because many farmworkers live in close community.

Here are some headlines from the past few days related to COVID-19 and farmworkers:

Farmworker advocates worry Oregon’s protections won’t keep laborers safe from coronavirus as harvest season ramps up

Oxnard housing facility for farmworkers sees coronavirus outbreak

Into Protecting Florida Farmworkers

High COVID cases among Latinos has health officials worried for farmworkers & Ag industry