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December 10, 2009

Sustainability an opportunity, speaker says

Dan Wheat, The Capital Press
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WENATCHEE, Wash. -- Major retailers are developing sustainability programs, and growers can view that as imposition or opportunity, says an internationally recognized sustainable agriculture leader.

"I like the term sustainability, but I know a lot of growers do not," said Clifford Ohmart, vice president of professional services of Sureharvest and former sustainable wine growing director at the Lodi, Calif., Winegrape Commission.

"It's the three Es," he said. "It's economically viable, environmentally sound and socially equitable."

While the environmental and social aspects are talked about most, the bottom line is economic viability because if you can't pay your bank loans you're not sustainable, Ohmart said.

Wal-Mart, Pepsi, Sysco, McDonald's, Kroger, Safeway and Supervalu all have sustainability programs on their Web sites and reports on how they're doing, he said.

 Top ag chemical companies have sustainability programs and are reporting on them, he said. Regulators will force implementation of sustainability if growers and industries don't act, he said.

"Sustainability is good business and the only way to be successful in the long term because that's what sustainability means is that you will be here in 10 and 20 years," Ohmart said.

Ohmart was among several speakers on sustainability at the Washington State Horticultural Association annual meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 8.