Reader Reaction: Sustainable Standard Process A Controversial One

The development of a sustainable agriculture standard for the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) to adopt has been the subject of criticism since Leonardo Academy began facilitating the developmental process back in 2007.

The very idea that a standard is being developed to represent all of agriculture is at the core of why so many people are so vocal in their criticisms. There are also concerns that the standard being developed is too focused, perhaps too much so on organics. Then there are those specifically in floriculture who are concerned their industry is being lopped into the standard as a “me too” to agriculture.

In the two-plus years the committee has pursued a standard, progress has been slow going. Committee and subcommittee members are continually resigning and Leonardo Academy, as a result, is continually searching for others to take their places. The most recent slew of resignations–Ball Horticultural Company’s Will Healy, Metrolina Greenhouse’s Mark Yelanich and D.S. Cole Greenhouse’s Doug Cole, who was actually a subcommittee member–sparked a new set of reactions from floriculture.

According to a letter Healy wrote Leonardo Academy President Michael Arny, he, Yelanich and Cole did not feel “the current committee make-up and established process can lead to the intended outcome of a National Standard acceptable to agricultural businesses.”

Healy, Yelanich and Cole, of course, aren’t the first committee and subcommittee members to voice their opinion about the process being misguided. A few Greenhouse Grower readers voiced their opinions about the process and these most recent resignations in the last week, as well.

As Alec Mackenzie of Argus Controls writes: “Something is wrong when three people of this standing in our industry are unable to work within this organization. Metrolina is an industry leader in sustainable practices, Doug has played a leading roll in implementing sustainable practices and Ball has a long history promoting (and following) best industry practices.”

Another Greenhouse Grower reader who identifies him/herself as an ANSI subcommittee member, echoes Mackenzie’s sentiment.

“The actions by these (members) is understandable because [the committee has] lost sight of the philosophy of continuous improvement and how that will shape growing techniques over decades. … Whatever growers have done today to reach some level of certification towards sustainability will seem inadequate in the future as the knowledge base increases in the area of organic nutrient alternatives and Integrated Pest Management.”

Another Greenhouse Grower reader argues the goal of the process is to promote organic practices as the standard for sustainability.

“Their process is heavily biased to put organic practices ahead of all others,” the reader writes. “It is a flawed program that should never have survived this long. They are masquerading as a legitimate process but in reality their agenda is to promote organics as the standard for sustainability. In fact, organic production has proven to be not sustainable and that is why 99 percent of agriculture today is no longer organic.”

Have an opinion on the ANSI process or whether or not an agricultural standard should be pursued? Let us know by leaving a comment in the section below.

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6 comments on “Reader Reaction: Sustainable Standard Process A Controversial One

  1. It is disappointing that some “first steps” approach could not have been worked out that would have worked toward more use of organic alternatives. We only have to turn to today’s news to understand why non-petroleum based inputs are a reasonable alternatives for production. The last statement that “organic production has proven to be not sustainable” is false. Show me the research that proves this statement…it is not there. And, at least some of the 99 percent are at least looking at these alternatives, both from a cost basis, and ones that are sustainable. This certification process may be flawed, but some of the aims are still valuable.

  2. We are a Pesticide Free grower of vegetables, because our customers have approved our production methods. Our customers have no problems with our use of low levels of Urea and Phosphorus as supplements. Our practices may not work in every environment, so be cautious. Understand your customers not the regulators.

  3. I think the statement that organic agricultural practices are not sustainable is wrong. Show some definitive studies that prove that is the case. Organic practices aren’t for everyone to be sure, yet to say they aren’t sustainable shows a lack of understanding of the total sustainability concepts. It will be difficult for the greenhouse industry to become 100% sustainable due to the need for a consistent petroleum based heat source for heating large operations plus the poly films used for roofs. Sustainable floriculture looks to practices that lessen environmental impact that also are less expensive and add value and dollars to the bottom line.

  4. It is disappointing that some “first steps” approach could not have been worked out that would have worked toward more use of organic alternatives. We only have to turn to today’s news to understand why non-petroleum based inputs are a reasonable alternatives for production. The last statement that “organic production has proven to be not sustainable” is false. Show me the research that proves this statement…it is not there. And, at least some of the 99 percent are at least looking at these alternatives, both from a cost basis, and ones that are sustainable. This certification process may be flawed, but some of the aims are still valuable.

  5. We are a Pesticide Free grower of vegetables, because our customers have approved our production methods. Our customers have no problems with our use of low levels of Urea and Phosphorus as supplements. Our practices may not work in every environment, so be cautious. Understand your customers not the regulators.

  6. I think the statement that organic agricultural practices are not sustainable is wrong. Show some definitive studies that prove that is the case. Organic practices aren’t for everyone to be sure, yet to say they aren’t sustainable shows a lack of understanding of the total sustainability concepts. It will be difficult for the greenhouse industry to become 100% sustainable due to the need for a consistent petroleum based heat source for heating large operations plus the poly films used for roofs. Sustainable floriculture looks to practices that lessen environmental impact that also are less expensive and add value and dollars to the bottom line.

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