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Frequently Asked Questions

Why is this project needed? Aren't there already many sustainability initiatives?

Businesses across the specialty crop industry are facing diverse and proliferating requests to demonstrate "sustainability." Yet, most existing certification and education programs focus on a niche market, a limited number of crops, and/or a particular link in the supply chain. Moreover, many of these programs focus on the best performers while leaving little incentive for others to participate. In contrast, SISC provides an inclusive, industry- and supply-chain wide system for measuring sustainable performance. As such, SISC aims to develop metrics that (1) address a range of impacts across all specialty crops, and (2) can be used by all who wish to participate.

Why does SISC use "stewardship" instead of "sustainable" to describe the project?

Use of the term "stewardship" reflects our decision not to identify a "sustainable" level of performance.

What's the difference between a "metric" and "standard"?

As we see it, a "standard" is a required practice or performance score (e.g., a specific irrigation method, a pesticide residue level) whereas a "metric" defines how to measure performance (e.g., acre-feet of water applied, energy use per yield, etc.) and notably does not prescribe what to do with the data gathered. Standards are valuable for identifying business partners that can achieve a specified level of performance, but they provide little incentive to improve above the standard and may leave out firms below the standard. SISC has developed metrics, not standards.

What's the difference between "performance-based" and "practice-based" metrics?

SISC has focused on developing specific, measurable performance-based metrics. Performance-based metrics offer the potential to measure actual desired outcomes (e.g., gallons of water conserved, units of energy conserved, etc). Certainly, optimal outcomes will occur only through the use of best practices (e.g., drip irrigation, conservation tillage, etc). But by focusing on outcomes instead of practices, individual operators are free to innovate and find the practices that work best for them – and demonstrate the benefits of such practices by providing their buyers and customers with tangible data.

Is this project duplicating work being done by the Field to Market Project (formerly called the Keystone Initiative)?

No. The Field to Market (F2M) project shares SISC’s focus on performance-based metrics, but it is analyzing existing datasets to estimate sustainable performance of specific agricultural sectors and regions. Also, F2M is currently focused on "commodity crops" (corn, soy, alfalfa, wheat, etc.) while SISC is focused on specialty crops (fruits, vegetables and nuts). Several SISC participants are also participating in F2M and we have shared knowledge with that effort.

How is SISC funded?

SISC is currently self-funded by its multi-stakeholder participants. Since launching in 2008, SISC has been supported by the time and expertise of many volunteer partners, and by in-kind services provided by members of the Coordinating Council. Significant financial support has been provided by The David and Lucille Packard Foundation, the Natural Resources Defense Council (including staff support), and two USDA-NRCS Conservation Innovation Grants, which were administered by SureHarvest.

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