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Ag Groups Withdraw From Biased Sustainability Standards Effort


Representatives from National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) and other agricultural groups have withdrawn en masse from the Leonardo Academy’s sustainable agriculture standard setting initiative, citing systemic limitations and chronic anti-agriculture biases in the effort’s structure. 

A letter addressed to Michael Arny, Leonardo Academy president, was signed by 10 national agricultural organization voting members and endorsed by 46 other agricultural groups, including NAWG. The Leonardo Academy and its principal financial sponsor, Scientific Certification Systems, had undertaken an effort in 2007 to develop a draft national standard for sustainable agriculture under a consensus-based process governed by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Despite the Leonardo Academy’s claim that the committee is made up of members from “across all areas of agriculture,” NAWG and others believe it’s dominated by environmental groups, certification consultants, agro-ecologists and organic farming proponents. 

The groups said in their letter that those guiding the committee “have neither the vision nor desire to speak for mainstream agriculture and the 95% of farmers who will be materially affected by any resulting standard.” Voting members who resigned represented the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Frozen Food Institute, American Soybean Association, California Seed Association, CropLife America, Environmental Intelligence, Inc., Grocery Manufacturers Association, NAWG, National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), National Cotton Council of America and United Fresh Produce Association. 

“Our willingness to participate in this process was predicated on a desire to produce an ‘on-farm’ standard that would result in broad adoption,” says Ken McCauley of NCGA. 

“However, from the actions of others on the committee it is now clear that this cannot occur within the Leonardo Academy process. It has become clear that the Leonardo Academy process is structurally biased against a balanced and open analysis of sustainability and modern agriculture.”

NAWG and many other agricultural groups participate widely in discussions to achieve a consensus on and create standards for agricultural sustainability. The groups writing the letter cited their intention to “pursue, in another venue, the development and implementation of a valid approach to agricultural sustainability.”

 The full letter sent is available at

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