At the annual United Fresh Conference in Chicago, which attracts the produce industry from California and all over the United States, there was a talk on sustainability. Could it be just another regulation?

Barry Bedwell is the President of the California Grape and Tree Fruit League in Fresno. He thinks the whole idea of farming sustainability could just be another regulation.

“When you look at sustainability you have to understand that we need to show value and rely on the value by the existing regulatory network. While we may not always agree with has been regulate or to the extent of regulation, it should provide confidence to other third parties particularly our demand-side partners.” said Bedwell

Barry mentions that much of what the sustainability initiative wants is already provided.

“There is compliance with social accountability issues, there is compliance with environmental friendly issues. There is compliance actually with economically viable issues as well. So number one, understand the value of the regulatory system before you go to a new initiative, understand what is already in place thorough regulations.” said Bedwell.

Bedwell says some of the proposals that have been brought forwards have secondary agendas.

“With somebody who comes in and says “Well I want to participate in a food safety initiative” it may be that their primary goal is involved with worker organization, under organized labor. The retailers and demand-side partners should understand that sustainability should not be used as a marketing tool. That there shouldn’t be a rush to “out sustain” one another. Because by doing that and creating further unofficial regulation on the producers you’re going to do the opposite, you’re going to make them less sustainable.” said Bedwell.

“So are message is, sustainability is an absolute positive thing, we probably have been doing it for many many years, what we haven’t been doing is communicating effectively. Can we improve? absolutely.” said Bedwell. “But lets understand what’s already in place, lets understand some of the motives of those that are pushing sustainability. Then also understand the role of the true partnership between the demand and supply sides.”