The crop produced under the WLC criteria is not guaranteed to be used in the production of the finished product (i.e. a bioplastic) – it is only the attributes of production that are linked to this finished product. But, the purchase of WLCs does promote more sustainable production practices overall, while also demonstrating to farmers that a growing market exists for commodity crops grown in this manner.
WLCs are voluntary and created on a geographic (i.e. per acre) basis. This approach avoids the incentive a “per bushel” payment would create to produce more than may be appropriate based on other landscape considerations (water quality, wildlife habitat, etc.). Farmers selling WLCs take specific, measurable steps to improve the environmental impact of their commodity crop production. Some of the production criteria include:
• Use of non-Genetically Modified (GM) crop varieties to protect biodiversity
• No continuous annual crop production on same acreage
• Soil testing on contracted acres and fertilization according to test results and state agronomic recommendations to assure that nutrients are used efficiently and are not likely to leach or run-off
• No use of chemicals that are known human or animal carcinogens, including atrazine
• Use of cover crops or assurance that at least 70 percent of crop residues remain on the entire field to minimize soil erosion
• Creation of farm plan that includes information on biodiversity, energy use and greenhouse gas emissions to help identify and encourage improvements in sustainability areas not currently addressed by WLCs.
Production based upon the WLC practices will not, in isolation, lead to full sustainability on the farm or in the biomaterial production. But within the current agricultural system, these practices represent achievable and proven first-steps that can improve the environmental performance of commodity crop production in some of the key areas of water, soil, habitat and biodiversity. As the WLC program continues to develop, participating farmers will be required to take additional steps towards improved farm sustainability, including measures to increase biodiversity, reduce energy and resource utilization, and minimize greenhouse gas emissions.
Working Landscapes Certificates in the Marketplace
Working Landscapes Certificates program was created by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) in 2006. Since 2008, IATP and Green Harvest Technologies (GHT) have collaborated to build the program into its present form. Green Harvest is responsible for WLC sales and contracting, while IATP is responsible for farmer outreach and WLC criteria development and verification. Interested companies buy WLCs from GHT, which contracts in the spring with farmers. IATP and GHT set prices ($60/acre in 2010).
The program has expanded significantly in the 2010 season, based on the involvement of a large company. In addition, we now have WLC production occurring near a bioplastic production facility, which can potentially allow for more direct feedstock and WLC connections in the future. IATP and GHT are willing to work with current and potential customers to explore how to ensure that the WLC program best meets needs for the 2011 and future growing seasons.
As a sector that is billed as environmentally-preferable, it is crucial that the biomaterials industry incorporates sustainability criteria into the entire life cycle of its products (such guidelines are available from the Sustainable Biomaterials Collaborative, listed below). WLCs are a potentially valuable tool for addressing the “front end” issues, by providing a traceable system that can be used to promote and verify commodity crop production that meets specific sustainability criteria, and to compensate farmers willing to take these steps.
If you are a manufacturer, retailer or another type of user of biomaterials and you want to link more sustainable production to your product, then Working Landscapes Certificates may be an important option for you.
For information on the purchase of Working Landscapes Certificates:
David Levine, Green Harvest Technologies, ww.greenharvesttechnology.com, David.firstname.lastname@example.org, 917 359-9623
Green Harvest Technologies LLC (GHT), an innovation product venture, makes and sells preferable, high performing consumer and medical products made from renewable materials.
IATP and GHT are members of the Sustainable Biomaterials Collaborative (SBC), a network of sustainable agriculture, environmental health, clean production, recycling, and other public interest organizations working together to spur the introduction and use of sustainable biomaterials in the marketplace. The SBC has developed a set of Guidelines for Sustainable Bioplastics. The WLC program addresses a number of the Guidelines for sustainable bioplastics to ensure a pathway to sustainability beginning with the agricultural system and the feedstocks that they produce.
For information on the Working Landscapes Certificate criteria and verification:
Jim Kleinschmit, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy,
www.iatp.org, email@example.com, 612 870-3430
The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) works locally and globally at the intersection of policy and practice to ensure fair and sustainable food, farm and trade systems.
The Sustainable Biomaterials Collaborative
WLCs are a bridge to resolve some of the emerging biomaterials sector’s infrastructure and sustainable feedstock supply issues. The production of WLCs can help “grow” the number of farmers producing commodity crops more sustainably and demonstrate the market demand for this type of production. This approach allows companies—at amuch-reduced cost from directly sourcing the materials—to support farmers making changes to their production
systems. And as the number of farmers producing crops more sustainably increases, companies interested in directly purchasing feedstocks produced this way will have an increased supply available from which to source. The WLC program is only intended and available for sectors where there are limited supply and productionfacilities, such as the bioplastics industry, which currently receives its feedstock material from a large corn mill. In areas such as biofuels, where the infrastructure and ability to directly source identity-preserved crops are much greater, an offset program such as WLCs is not necessary, nor as effective in prom oting feedstock sustainability.
The WLC program is a first, crucial step to create truly sustainable biomaterials. In this phase, the focus is on driving more sustainable production of commodity crop feedstocks for use in biomaterials refining. Further stages will emphasize direct sourcing of these more sustainable feedstocks and, ultimately, a transition toward perennial grasses and other more sustainable feedstocks.
Working Landscape Certificates in Action
The Working Landscapes Certificate (WLC) program is being offered in 2010 by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) and Green Harvest Technology (GHT) to promote more sustainable agricultural production for emerging biomaterials sectors, including the bioplastics industry. With current infrastructure challenges associated with feedstock identity-preservation and chain-of-custody, this innovative program allows manufacturers, retailers and other consumers of commodity crops to offer a more sustainable product to their customers by encouraging sustainable crop production, providing additional income to farmers using thesepractices, and improving the overall ecological impact of agricultural production.
Under the WLC program, participating farmers agree to raise crops according to sustainable production standards verified by a certification entity. The farmer then has two products to sell: the crop itself and the quantified ecological benefits associated with the more sustainable production practices – termed the Certificate.