A coalition of
conservation and agricultural groups are asking growers how their
environmental practices are changing in the face of ever more complicated food
The survey was sent in
April to about 700 growers in California's Monterey, Santa Cruz, San Mateo,
San Benito, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara counties, and is expected back
in the next few weeks, said Paul Robins, executive director of the Monterey
County Resource Conservation District, the agency leading the survey work.
"The intent is to
see what has changed and to better identify what pressures growers are
experiencing relative to food safety requirements and compare those with (the
California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement) and proprietary food safety
programs," Robins said.
The current survey is a
follow-up to one in 2007 that polled about 600 growers on how their
conservation, water and other environmental practices on the farm changed
after the 2006 E. coli outbreak linked to bagged spinach.
It is a collaborative
effort between the Grower-Shipper Association of Central California,
Salinas; the Nature Conservancy in Monterey County; Western Growers,
Irvine, Calif.; Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner's Office,
Salinas; and the Central Coast Agricultural Water Quality Coalition,
Hank Giclas, vice
president of science, technology and strategic planning for Western
Growers, said the newest survey has more detailed questions to gauge what
changed in the past two years to serve as a better source of data than the
"It's going to be
interesting to see if we get better results on this one," Giclas said.
Growers responded to the
2007 questionnaire with information about a conflict between longstanding
work on water quality and riparian habitat preservation and buyers
rejecting many leafy greens. Growers said they were losing points on food
safety audits because of nonvegetable crops on their farms, crop proximity
to water and traces of wildlife.
Robins said the survey
focuses on these core areas and measures how food safety rules imposed by
buyers and auditors continue to change growers' on-farm environmental work.
Jim Bogart, president of
the Grower-Shipper Association, said the survey is about gathering
information beyond anecdotes to hard data that can be used to inform
legislators, other industry groups, and the public about what growers face
in meeting food safety rules.
"It's to get a feel
for the relationship between food safety efforts versus conservation
efforts," Bogart said.