Conventional growers can receive higher rankings than organic farmers by doing things like establishing a garbage recycling program, relying more on alternative energy sources, eliminating some pesticides and setting aside a portion of fields as a conservation area.
“Whole Foods has done so much to help educate consumers about the advantages of eating an organic diet,” five farmers said in a recent letter to John Mackey, co-founder and co-chief executive of Whole Foods. “This new rating program undermines, to a great degree, that effort.”
Tom Willey, an organic farmer for some four decades in and around Madera, California, is one of many who believe the Whole Foods program is just a subtle attempt at shifting the cost of a market program onto food producers.
“The reports we’re getting from speaking to farmers around the country are that they are spending anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000 to comply with this program,” Willey, one of the farmers who signed the letter, told the Times.