On April 24-25, representatives of the 58-member committee to develop voluntary American standards for sustainable agricultural products, including cut flowers and potted plants, met in Washington, DC, to review the first rendition of the proposed standards. The standards, if accepted by the American National Standards Institute, would be used to certify a company’s products as sustainable.
For the past two years, three subcommittees on the environmental, economic and social aspects of agricultural sustainability have been crafting the principles, criteria and indicators, as well as starting the process of defining metrics and measurements to monitor progress.
This was the first structured opportunity for the entire committee to review the combined work of each subcommittee in one complete draft document. (This document can be reviewed at http://sites.google.com/site/sustainableagstandards/)
The approaches, content and wording of the document were discussed, with lots of challenges and constructive criticism on ways to improve the clarity and workability of the standard by producers. This information will now go back to the subcommittees for consideration and incorporation into a revised draft.
When the revised draft is reviewed and approved by the full standards committee, it will be sent out to the agriculture community at large for public comment. All inputs from the industry review will be reviewed and responded to at the subcommittee and standards committee level and further revisions made to the draft document.
Then a final draft will be sent out for public comment. After this second round of public comments is completed, the draft standard will be submitted to the American National Standards Institute for acceptance and approval.
While the bulk of the work on the standards is provided by dedicated volunteers represented by producers, environmentalists, users (up-channel and retailers), general interest groups and academicians, the standards development process is being shepherded by Leonardo Academy, a nonprofit organization certified by ANSI.
Sustainability is an ongoing process, based on the principle of continuous improvement. Therefore, there is never an end to what you can achieve. Likewise, standards must also be fluid to accommodate new science and methods, and expand into new areas.
This draft document was developed primarily with field crops in mind, and will be applicable to a large portion of floriculture and horticulture. However, while most of the standards are applicable to greenhouse operations, they still need to be tailored to address this important floriculture segment.
Personally, I was somewhat skeptical at the beginning of this process. The task of developing standards for all of agriculture seemed daunting in scope and unlikely to be achieved. However, having stuck through it and being actively involved in the development process, I’m now a believer. There’s still a lot to be done, including discussions on harmonizing or accepting existing standards such as Florverde, Veriflora or GlobalGAP.
It will be critically important that floriculture-horticulture industry members review the draft document when it is released for public comment so that your suggestions and concerns can be reviewed and considered.
Stan Pohmer, a floral industry veteran, is head of Pohmer Consulting Group in Minnetonka, MN. He can be reached by phone at 612/605-8799 and by email at email@example.com.