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Cornell's Role in IPM Labeling



I. Background

The IPM labeling effort that is currently underway in New York was initiated by the retail food industry. It is a voluntary, non-exclusive effort that continues to be led by the retail sector of the state's agricultural and food system. Food retailers as well as other segments of the food and agricultural industry have requested assistance from Cornell University and Cornell Cooperative Extension as they move ahead with IPM-labeling. Their requests have focused on assistance in defining the nature of IPM practices to support a label, and in educating agricultural producers on how to adopt those practices in their individual farm businesses.

The first request for assistance came in 1994, when a food retailer asked the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University and Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) if there were opportunities to assist Cornell and CCE in linking the College's science base to sustaining the future of New York agriculture. These discussions led to the food retailer's request for an IPM educational outreach program to producers of fresh-market sweet corn who supplied the food retailer stores in Rochester, NY. As this collaborative effort developed in the summer of 1995, the food retailer asked for the use of a pre-existing NYS IPM logo to be part of its consumer educational effort. The Cornell Research Foundation, a private arm of Cornell University, secured a trademark for the NYS IPM logo and became the "owner" of the logo. The food retailer obtained a non-exclusive license to use the logo, and sweet corn from IPM demonstration fields was test marketed at one of the food retailer's stores using the NYS IPM logo. The food retailer noted a positive response from consumers in this initial phase of the effort. In the following year the food retailer gained the interest of a food processor in providing private-labeled IPM products to them. In 1997 the interest in selling produce with an IPM label spread to grower organizations and groups within New York. Identifying IPM agricultural products has now gone beyond the New York borders with IPM grown and labeled products being identified in many states in the nation.

In order to produce agricultural products labeled under the New York IPM logo, agricultural producers agree to follow a set of "IPM elements" as they grow the crop(s) that were to be sold as IPM grown. Those elements were primarily derived from the IPM science and technology base at Cornell. IPM elements were first discussed among growers and Cornell, and then agreed upon through discussions among all of the participants in the various labeling efforts. To date those participants include the New York State Berry Growers Association, the Eden Valley Growers, Wegmans Food Markets, and Comstock Michigan Fruit, with Cornell serving as the primary resource of IPM knowledge. One part of the process has been to set yearly adoption goals for IPM practices. The growers who produce the IPM-labeled crops strive to achieve the adoption goals. Documentation of the IPM practices that growers follow is required of each of the grower participants. Those who license the IPM logo each work with independent third parties to evaluate the growers documentation and verify that the records support the claims made on the label.

All promotion of IPM-labeled products has been conducted by private sector organizations. For example, the food retailer has developed an awareness campaign that includes in-store brochures, an in-store video, a column in their weekly advertisement, and radio, TV, and newspaper articles. Grower organizations have also developed marketing efforts to help the consumer understand what IPM is all about.

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II. Cornell's Role in this Effort

Cornell Cooperative Extension, and the NY State IPM Program, serve as resources to parties interested in growing products for IPM labeling. Agricultural producers are provided with opportunities to acquire the necessary information and education to meet the labeling requirements. Growers can learn how to practice the elements from IPM manuals, fact sheets, demonstration projects, and other educational materials. Cornell Cooperative Extension Educators are also available to demonstrate IPM methods and assist growers in gaining confidence in IPM methods. The scientific research base at Cornell has an on-going role of providing new information on the best methods for managing pests. These IPM methods may be cultural, chemical, or biological in scope.

The Cornell Research Foundation (CRF) obtained a trademark for the NYS IPM logo and is the holder of the licensing agreement and the owner of the NY IPM logo. It is the legal representative of Cornell in matters relating to the protection of research discoveries, and, in the case of the IPM labeling, it licenses the logo for a fee through a contract that addresses labeling claims, promotions, documentation, and educational requirements. The agreement gives CRF the right to review all promotional material that licensees propose to use in advertising an IPM-labeled product. CRF uses the IPM Program staff as resource for answering questions regarding the licensing agreements, but CRF remains the licensing body. Requests for the use of the NYS IPM logo are made to CRF.

The New York State IPM Program at Cornell University serves as a resource to third-party verifiers on IPM practices and methods that can be used for verification purposes.

The New York State IPM Program at Cornell University participates in discussions regarding the appropriate roles for Land Grant universities in IPM labeling efforts nationwide.

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III. IPM Elements, How They are Developed and How They are Used in a Process that Leads to Labeling

Elements of IPM are developed through interactions between the grower community and the research and extension base at Cornell. A set of elements for a given crop describe the state of IPM knowledge and are key to prioritizing research and extension efforts. Elements are also essential for the program evaluation and reporting process to state and federal agencies.

A process that incorporates IPM elements for IPM labeling purposes is ONLY developed upon a formal request to CRF from some segment of the agricultural industry. When this happens, the interested parties meet with Cornell research and extension personnel, and agree upon several issues including: the elements to be used for labeling purposes, a point system for the elements, and the percentage of the acreage that needs to achieve the points in order to qualify for labeling.

In 1997, elements for dry beans, processing tomatoes, greenhouse tomatoes, fresh cabbage, grapes, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and sweet cherries were established through meetings between grower groups and Cornell. At these same meetings the parties interested in using elements for labeling purposes determined the process to be used for qualifying a crop for labeling purposes.

Also, in 1997, parties interested in IPM labeling met to revise the process that had been used in previous years to label fresh sweet corn, processing sweet corn, snap beans, kraut cabbage, beets, carrots, and peas.

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IV. The Role of Other Parties in IPM labeling

There are different groups and organizations that lead the IPM labeling effort for each crop. Their roles have evolved over time and are likely to continue to evolve in the future. The current roles, as perceived by Cornell, are:

All interested agricultural producers of a crop help define the IPM elements for the crops they grow and then strive to follow those elements during the growing season, documenting their efforts as the season progresses.

Food processors help choose the IPM elements for the crops they process. They work with their growers as the growers strive to follow the elements, collect grower records for verification purposes, and hire and work with a third-party verifier to be sure all labeled products meet the required elements.

Food retailers participate in meetings that choose the IPM elements for the crops they intend to market. They work with the growers of fresh-market produce as the growers strive to follow the elements. They collect grower records for verification purposes, hire and work with a third-party verifier to be sure all labeled products meet the required elements, develop IPM consumer education materials, and market IPM to consumers.

Grower organizations or groups help define the IPM elements for the crops they grow, work with their members as they follow the elements, collect member records for verification purposes, hire and work with a third-party verifier to be sure all labeled products meet the required elements, and work on their own or with food retailers to insure that IPM-labeled products are properly identified and marketed.

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