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California flower grower group to launch own certification label

If you are confused by the array of certification labels for cut flowers and foliage, stand back: here comes another one. The California Cut Flower Commission has decided it will develop a new sustainability certification exclusively for California flowers, according to Kasey Cronquist, its chief executive officer and ambassador.

In an interview in mid-May, Cronquist said the commission had committed $250,000 of its dues funding toward development of the new standard and had pledged to help certify more than 50 percent of California’s flower production by 2015. The effort was begun in fall 2010 under a federal grant of $74,900 with a study by SureHarvest in Soquel, CA, conducted by Clifford P. Ohmart and Andrew Arnold and completed in May 2011.

The sustainability certification standards are under development now and will be pilot-tested with cooperating flower farms in 2014, Cronquist said. Mike Mellano of Mellano & Co. heads the CCFC committee overseeing the development by Protected Harvest of Soquel, CA, where Ohmart is leading the project. Cronquist said the certification would not be promoted to consumers except through retailers.

One main focus of the study, which mailed out 202 survey forms and received 35 responses, or 17 percent, was to examine California flower growers’ current sustainability practices (e.g., water conservation, fair labor practices).

“The largest percentage of CCFC flower farmer members appear to be using the most sustainable practices in the areas of Crop, Water and Pest Management,” the report concluded. “The areas where smaller percentages of members are implementing fewer sustainable practices appear to be Energy and Ecosystem Management and Employer Practices.”

A second focus was to compare carbon dioxide emissions resulting from transporting imported flowers by airplanes to those from flowers grown in California and trucked to retail locations throughout the United States. “In all cases,” the report stated, carbon dioxide emissions for shipping South American-produced flowers to Miami and trucking them to U.S. destinations are much greater than for shipping California-grown cut flowers to the same places by truck.

For example, the report concluded, shipping flowers by air from Quito to Miami, then by truck from Miami to New York City, produces three times the carbon emissions of shipping flowers from Los Angeles to New York City by truck. A flight from Quito to Los Angeles to Seattle produced 16 times the carbon emissions of trucking flowers from Los Angeles to Seattle.

The study had two major features the researchers pointed out: It did not include the carbon emissions from refrigerating the flowers while they traveled on trucks, nor any produced while growing the flowers.

The third focus compared nine certification standards. “Based on the analysis in this report, the Veriflora program is the best option for CCFC flower farmer members to join for those wanting to participate in an existing certification program because it is the most rigorous,” the report stated.

“Another option is for CCFC to develop its own certification program for its members, in partnership with an existing third party certifying organization such as Protected Harvest” (a subsidiary of SureHarvest), the report stated.