Shifting visions of sustainability in United States agriculture
Given the lack of consensus as to what counts as sustainable agriculture, a key component of agricultural sustainability transitions is developing a vision of sustainability and associated tools that can be used to foster changes in agricultural practices. This chapter examines the role of multi-stakeholder governance in this process. It presents case studies of two leading multi-stakeholder initiatives for U.S. agriculture: Field to Market and the Stewardship Index for Specialty Crops. We find that multi-stakeholder governance is generating a shift in the meaning of sustainability in U.S. agriculture. Specifically, whereas sustainability has historically been associated with alternative agrifood movements in the U.S., the visions of agricultural sustainability being advanced by Field to Market and the Stewardship Index for Specialty Crops is more in alignment with the emerging notion of sustainable intensification. Most notably, Field to Market and SISC are advancing a ‘neutral’ approach that does not judge particular farming systems or practices, but rather emphasizes quantitative measurements and eco-efficiencies. Hence, our findings indicate that in the context of the U.S., multi-stakeholder governance is codifying sustainability in ways that are largely accommodative of the existing structure and practices of U.S. agriculture.