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Social Audits For Farms? Where Does It End?

Are you aware that large customers have decided shippers need to undergo "social audits?"

Jan 28, 2011


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Board of Directors

Denis Prosperi
Chester Andrew
Bob Smittcamp
Russ Waymire
John "Dusty" Giacone
Joe Marchini
Mark Watte
Kole Upton
Piedad Ayala
Tom Barcellos
Jim Walls

Social Audits For Farms?  Where Does It End?
We would like to share with you the letter sent to California Citrus Mutual members by its President, Mr. Joel Nelsen.  We think its hits the nail on the head for the challenges those of us face that are in agriculture in California. 

California Citrus Mutual

January 26, 2011

Dear CCM Members,

Recently I wrote in the Market Memo about the need for our industry, growers and shippers, to decide whether a defensive or offensive mode is necessary to thwart the plethora of unreasonable demands emanating from customers, environmental activists, and some public policy representatives. 

You all know what the regulatory environment is like in California.  Are you aware that large customers have decided shippers need to undergo "social audits?"  Are you aware that one has partnered with Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Environmental Defense Fund to determine if you are producing and distributing your product efficiently?  Did you know that there are approximately 80 efforts in government education, and the private sector seeking to impose their brand of sustainability on your farm?

California's State Board of Agriculture, now heavily influenced by non producers, created its own version of sustainability.  Your farming practices today, by and large, are not sustainable according to the Board!  National produce organizations believe a Stewardship Index or matrix is needed with a scorecard to determine whether you are farming properly.  

All this leads to more regulations, more mandates, more costs, and more demands.  Recognize that sustainable vendors, no matter what they look like, can only sustain themselves by asking for more.  Everyone wants access to your proprietary data.  Everyone wants you to pay for an on-farm audit.  Some want to rank your  proficiency on many components of your farming practices.  

Pressure is being placed on your marketer and shipper to comply.  The burden is then passed down to you.  The alternatives are to lose the business or comply with the demands.  What do you want your marketer to do?  Say no to large customers or say yes to a long list of unwarranted demands?  

Still another customer is demanding an air quality audit.  Another seeks private interviews with employees.  This disease of subjective intrusion is designed for others to differentiate themselves in the marketplace or at government levels.  They choose to do so by demonizing the world's finest producers of food and fiber.  

This attack on the world's food producing system must be challenged in our view.  The family farmer should not be ashamed of how he achieves his/her objective today.  He or she need not apologize for growing food products in an environmentally sensitive manner and make money while doing it. 

Your sales and marketing team is somewhat powerless to challenge these demands.  The Citrus Mutual Board believes we can muster a successful challenge to these efforts and has challenged staff to create that game plan.  It won't be done by CCM alone.  But, just as CCM led the supply side challenge against a bad traceability system, and just as CCM led the challenge against a broad-brush approach to food safety, we can muster a coalition against these efforts to further control your business. 

We're not against improvement, adaptation, or accountability.  We are opposed to extortion, cost increase without an ROI, and a subjective determination of sustainability without an economic component. 

Thus, with your help we will take the offensive in building this effort by providing leadership to our industry and all suppliers to fresh fruits and vegetables.  Your support in the endeavor will be necessary.  Supporting your shipper/marketer as they say no is important.  Urging them to say no is important.   

Thre will be challenges, even from within.  Saying "no" or "enough is enough" will be hard for producers, almost impossible for shippers/marketers.  But, how much is that sale worth?  Is it worth the farm?


Joel Nelsen
CCM President


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