The committee developing voluntary national standards for sustainable
agriculture approved a set of principles that outline its work for the next two
years at a meeting June 14-15 at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.
Also, the committee was told that legal opinions held that the copyright of
any standards developed would be owned by the committee.
The principles cover economic, social and environmental criteria related to
farm labor rights; water, soil and air pollution; biodiversity; greenhouse gases;
and other topics. Work will now move forward to develop indicators and
metrics for these principles, Douglas B. Johnson, owner of Environmental
Intelligence Inc. in St. Paul, MN, told The Produce News June 18 by phone. Dr.
Johnson is volunteer co-chairman of the fundraising and communications
subcommittee for the standards group.
In other action, the committee set a tentative date of fall 2012 for completion
of the standards and heard about the legal opinions on copyright from
Michael Arny, president of Leonardo Academy in Madison, WI, which is
shepherding the development process.
Marty Matlock, a professor at the University of Arkansas and chairman of the
standards committee for the past two years, resigned his post and
membership in the committee at the meeting, as he had told The Produce
News June 10 he would. He said then that his actions resulted from frustration
at the slow process, then in its second year, of turning copyright over from a
private for-profit company to a non-profit group.
Dr. Matlock first learned via a phone call June 13 about the legal opinions
which said that the copyright was held by the committee and therefore did
not have to be assigned to a non-profit group, he said in a phone interview
after the meeting. He praised the work of the committee and said it had
developed a collegial atmosphere.
"The approval of the principles was an important beginning for the
committee," Mr. Arny told The Produce News June 18. He said that the
copyright switch from a for-profit company would allow a broader range of
fundraising efforts, including foundation grants as well as corporate and
individual donations. Principal funder to date has been Scientific Certification
Systems in Emeryville, CA, which has paid Leonardo Academy about $200,000
over the past three years for its work.
About 40 of the 58 committee members attended the meeting, and another
10 participated by telephone. Nominations for a new chairman will be taken
in early July.