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Ag standards group to issue draft for public comment

The 58-member committee developing voluntary American standards for sustainable agricultural products, including cut flowers and potted plants, will issue a draft version of the standards for public comment sometime this fall, according to Michael Arny, president of Leonardo Academy of Madison, WI. The academy is a nonprofit shepherding the project through the development process prescribed by the American National Standards Institute.

Arny told The Produce News in mid-September that funding for the project has been a problem that slowed development of the standards, but that committee work has been completed. After editing, he said, the standards will be released for public comment. “It’s been a rough road, but we are near the destination,” he said. “Our staff are filling in and getting the final work on the draft done.” Funding lately has been from committee members and outsiders, he added.

When the process began in 2007, some on the committee thought the standards might need a specific annex for floral products. The current draft has no special section for floral, said Arny, but one could be developed if public comment indicates a need.

After public comments are considered and as appropriate incorporated, Arny said, the standards will be forwarded to the American National Standards Institute, and if accepted, would be used to voluntarily certify products as sustainable. Copyrights for the standards, a point of contention in the past, are now assigned to Leonardo Academy, Arny added.

For the past two years, three subcommittees on the environmental, economic and social aspects of agricultural sustainability have been crafting principles, criteria and indicators, along with defining metrics and measurements to monitor progress.

Initial funding to the academy to develop the standards came from Scientific Certification Systems, a private, for-profit firm, and totaled about $200,000. SCS submitted its Veriflora standards for cut flowers and potted plants as a starting point, but at its first meeting the committee set those aside to start from scratch.