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SISC Releases First Suite of Metrics

Data-Driven Measurement Tools Bring Consistency to Sustainability

SEBASTAPOL, CALIF., September 23, 2013 – The Stewardship Index for Specialty Crops (SISC) today announced the release of five Working Metrics, or measurement tools, designed to support sustainability efforts across the specialty crops supply chain. Developed through unprecedented collaboration among growers, buyers andpublic interest groups, the new suite of metrics is intended to provide a science-based yardstick for assessing on-farm performance across key areas impacted by the production of fruits, vegetables and nuts.

The initial suite of metrics (designated ‘working’ because they will be continually refined based on evolving knowledge) are: Applied Water Use Efficiency, Energy Use, Nitrogen Use, Phosphorus Use and Soil Organic Matter. Metric overviews, as well as detailed technical notes, guidelines and a demonstration Metric Calculator, are available at www.stewardshipindex.org. 

Because SISC regards sustainability as an ongoing process, the metrics are not intended to deem specific practices or performance levels as “sustainable.” SISC’s goal is to give any producer or buyer considering a sustainability program free access to a single, data-driven measurement tool, so that individual partners across the supply chain do not have to invest time and resources developing proprietary systems. 

“If you are considering metrics for assessing on-farm practices, we hope you will adopt SISC metrics,” said Hank Giclas, Senior Vice President, Western Growers, and founding member of SISC. “They were developed with many stakeholders around the table, have been peer-reviewed by independent experts and are intended to help individual producers identify opportunities for both practice improvements and economic savings.”

“SISC lets growers measure stewardship for fertilizer, energy, soil and water without turning the farm into a full-blown academic research laboratory,” said founding member Jonathan Kaplan, Director, Food and Agriculture Program, Natural Resources Defense Council. “This group worked hard to maintain scientific integrity while ensuring that the metrics are practical for growers.”

The Working Metrics were officially adopted at the most recent meeting of SISC’s Coordinating Council (CC), where the CC also reaffirmed its commitment to ongoing support of metric adoption and to developing new metrics through a the multi-stakeholder process. After receiving significant support from the Conservation Innovation Grant program administered by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, SISC is now self-funded by coalition members and operating as a project of Ag Innovations Network.

“In addition to helping growers target areas for improvement, the metrics will enable them to compare their farms to those of similar growers over time,” noted Steve Balling, Director, Agricultural & Analytical Services, Del Monte, and SISC Steering Committee member. “Just as important, they provide us all with a common language for communicating with customers and consumers about the impact of our production methods—and for clearly demonstrating the stewardship activities of U.S. farmers.”

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