(Dec. 18, 9:30 a.m.) A new measure of sustainability for specialty crops was announced Dec. 18 by a group of more than 30 growers, buyers, environmental groups and trade associations.

Called the Stewardship Index for Specialty Crops, the broad-based group said in a news release it will develop and share a system for measuring sustainable performance for specialty crops across the supply chain.

However, the group said it will not seek to prescribe standards of sustainability, but rather provide a measuring stick for stewardship that can be used to make continuous improvements.

“As we learned from working to improve our industry’s food safety, the absence of accepted, industry-wide standards will allow proliferating standards to add unnecessary costs to the system,” said Tim York, president of Markon Cooperative, Salinas, Calif., in the release. “And we need science-based data. It’s to everyone’s advantage to collaborate to develop metrics that are specific, measurable and verifiable.”

The project is seeking public comment on an initial list of issues it believes should be measured to assess sustainable performance. The proposed issues and a list of current participants may be found at the project’s web site at www.stewardshipindex.org.