Washington State U Launches New Ag Sustainability Yardstick Program

Measure to Manage food, farm project funded by Clif Bar.

Published on: Dec 6, 2012

A new Washington State University program has been charged with developing science-based tools to measure the sustainability of food production systems.

The Measure to Manage: Food and Farm Diagnostics for Sustainability and Health, or M2M, just received a $240,000 grant from the Clif Bar Family Foundation.

"Our partnership with Washington State University couldn't be more timely," says Kit Crawford, president of the Clif Bar Family Foundation.

"Agriculture has a huge impact on the health of people and the planet. Now more than ever, we need to back the rigorous , scientific study of organic, sustainable agriculture and its many benefits."

Looking at sustainable ag practices like no-till planting and organic production is the goal of a new WSU study using a Clif Bar Family Foundation grant.
Looking at sustainable ag practices like no-till planting and organic production is the goal of a new WSU study using a Clif Bar Family Foundation grant.

M2M will develop new, and refine existing, science-based tools to quantify and compare the nutritional quality of food, agricultural and food production systems, and tools will be made publically available to decision makers and their advisors, including food system professionals, researchers and policymakers.

"Our new program will strive to improve the return on time and resources invested across the agricultural sector in complying with a growing array of standards and certification programs by measuring performance attributes with clear links to outcomes that improve people's lives and promote environmental quality," says Charles Benbrook, M2M program leader and WSU research professor.

Resolving conflicts between different sets of standards and certification requirements is a core M2M goal.

Multiple efforts are underway across the agricultural sector and food industry to  develop and adopt sustainable farming systems that produce food with benefits like more nutrients and less risky pesticide residues. New standard-setting and certification programs for food quality  and safety are emerging at state and national levels and from several international organizations. M2M will address what makes one farming system more or less sustainable than another, and now farmers, food companies and third-party certifiers can quantify improvements in food nutritional quality and safety.