Monday, November 08, 2010

Agriculture groups leave coalition working on sustainability

The move by the agriculture industry to craft standards for "sustainable agriculture" has been left in shambles after  10 members of the 60-member coalition recently resigned. The resigning groups from the Leonardo Academy "included representatives from the National Corn Growers Association, the American Soybean Association, the American Farm Bureau and the United Fresh Produce Association — in other words, all the major production groups," Bill Bishop of the Daily Yonder report. "Nearly 50 other ag groups – from the American Seed Trade Association to Washington State Potato Commission — co-signed the letter of resignation."

The resignation has become "another example of how contentious — and impossible to resolve — agricultural issues have become," Bishop writes. The definition of sustainable agriculture set out in the 1990 Farm Bill was vague and broad but "generally meant agriculture that would protect the environment, sustain farmers and produce food," Bishop writes. The definition is evolving as noted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service, which recently wrote, "As more parties sign on to the sustainable agriculture effort, perceptions about what defines sustainability in agriculture have multiplied."

"The Leonardo Academy is a nonprofit group that helps develop standards for sustainability," Bishop writes. "Leonardo creates large committees with people from all sides of an issue. The committee then develops the standard." The Academy, which developed the LEED system for rating energy savings, has been working on sustainable agriculture standards since 2007. The standards wouldn't carry the weight of government rules but could be used by states and the federal government. The Academy has asked for volunteers to take the place of the 10 resigning members, but critics question whether meaningful standards can be developed without the input of the largest agriculture groups. (Read more)

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