CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University is seeking comments on a statewide study of sustainable agriculture in order to gauge potential for establishing a new program to help the agriculture and food business communities meet sustainability standards.
The study is part of a statewide conversation about sustainable agriculture in Oregon. It compiles comments from groups of people across the state who were asked how OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences can provide the agriculture and food industries with research and information about sustainability and certification standards in the marketplace.
The focus groups included growers, food processors and retailers, food service industries and non-governmental organizations across the state.
The OSU Extension Service has posted the report online and created a space on the website to allow Oregonians to comment on and continue this conversation about sustainable agriculture. The report is available at http://extension.oregonstate.edu/blogs/sustainable_agriculture/report/.
Movement to develop a clearinghouse for information about sustainable agriculture began in 2002, when member-grower representatives of NORPAC Foods, Inc., sought to develop agricultural stewardship and sustainability guidelines.
Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski directed the Oregon Solutions Network to help establish a single, comprehensive source for a full range of resources related to sustainable agriculture. In 2006, 26 organizations signed a Declaration of Cooperation to establish the Oregon Sustainable Agriculture Resource Center. In discussions regarding the center’s location and funding, criticisms arose that the agricultural community had not been involved more broadly.
In response, the OSU Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources Extension Program offered to conduct a series of focus groups to engage a larger representation of agriculture.
Several themes emerged from the focus group conversations. Among them:
• Oregon has an opportunity to be a sustainable agriculture leader;
• Sustainable agriculture is a consumer-driven trend;
• Lack of certification standards creates risks;
• The term “sustainable agriculture” is confusing;
• There are multiple needs for information, education and research on this topic.
The public is invited to comment on the study and its findings. OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences is monitoring the conversations on the website but is not moderating the discussion.