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U.S. growers wary of costs of ‘certified sustainable’


May 26, 2010
By Brian Wallheimer Purdue University

May 26, 2010,
West Lafayette, IN – Commercial
flower growers want to tap into the growing market of consumers looking
for
sustainable products, but those same growers aren't willing to go
through a
difficult and costly certification to do it at this time.

May 26, 2010,
West Lafayette, IN – Commercial
flower growers want to tap into the growing market of consumers looking
for
sustainable products, but those same growers aren't willing to go
through a
difficult and costly certification to do it at this time.

Purdue
University
's Roberto Lopez and Jennifer
Dennis, assistant professors of horticulture, and Maria Marshall, an
assistant
professor of agricultural economics, found that nearly two-thirds of
U.S.
growers aren't interested in spending the time and money to become
certified as
sustainable. One-third hadn't even heard of certification organizations
such as
Veriflora and MPS, which can charge thousands of dollars for
certifications.

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“It can be
expensive, and you have to go through
rigorous screenings and paperwork. It takes a lot of time," Lopez said.
"Most growers didn't think it was worth it."

Based on
surveys of 112 commercial flower growers,
Lopez said the ability to recoup the cost of being certified is the
growers'
chief concern. He said the floriculture industry's profits have not
always kept
up with costs in the last decade, and most growers are unwilling to pay
thousands of dollars for something that hasn't been proven to bring a
return on
investment.

In the last
decade, poinsettias, for example, have
increased a little more than 13 per cent in price, but the cost of
natural gas
has more than doubled. Growers with thin profit margins are concerned
about
spending on a certification that isn't guaranteed to raise profits.

The teams'
findings, reported in the early online
version of the journal HortScience, are similar to an earlier Lopez
study in
which growers were wary of adopting sustainable practices and
technologies
because of concerns about whether those practices would increase
profits.

"They feel
that conversion to sustainable
production practices is still risky," Lopez said. "They're unsure of
some of the technology."

Converting to a
sustainable technology or practice
– water recycling systems, biological instead of chemical controls or
alternative energy sources – can be costly. Using some of the technology
incorrectly also could lead to losses, for example if recycled water
spreads
disease.

Lopez said the
market for sustainable products is
growing, however. He said about $230 billion is spent each year on
socially and
environmentally responsible products.

Lopez said
growers were interested in seeing
objective research data on how becoming certified as sustainable would
increase
profits. He said his future research would focus on that area. The Ball
Horticultural Company and a Purdue Mission Oriented Grant funded the
research.

 

 

ABSTRACT

Barriers
to
Adopting Sustainable Floriculture Certification

Tanya
J.
Hall, Roberto G. Lopez, Maria I. Marshall, Jennifer H. Dennis

In
recent years, the commercial greenhouse industry has begun to implement
sustainable production practices. However, foriculture certification
programs
for sustainable production practices are a relatively new phenomenon in
the
United States. Between July and Oct. 2008, a commercial foriculture
grower
survey was conducted to determine potential barriers to sustainable foriculture
certification. Using a logistic regression model, seven potential areas
were
evaluated: risk, profitability, economic viability, prior experience,
education, operation size, and customer types. Although respondents had
positive attitudes toward sustainability and had adopted sustainable
practices,
respondents had little knowledge and interest in U.S. certification.

 

 


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