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The Lodi-Woodbridge Winegrape Commission worked with Protected Harvest, the third-party certifier, for nearly two years in developing the Lodi Rules for Sustainable Winegrowing.

Protected Harvest is a nonprofit environmental organization that certifies farmers’ use of stringent environmental farming standards. It has received the highest rating by Consumers Union as an eco-label organization with meaningful, verifiable, and transparent standards.
Erik Olsen, Protected Harvest board member and senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, participated in a news conference held in mid-January to recognize the first six wine grape growers certified as meeting the Lodi Rules standards. He stated that he was “proud to be associated with the Lodi program which represents real environmental progress.”

Cliff Ohmart, research and integrated pest management director for the commission, said that the Lodi-Woodbridge growers and vintners have “worked with rather than running away” from environmental groups like the NRDC. “We recognize that we are taking a chance in working with these groups, but they do appear willing to form partnerships with agriculture rather than ‘I’ll see you in court’.”

Ohmart admitted that mention of the NRDC has raised a red flag with some grower groups. But he believes a key component of their sustainable viticulture program has been the relationships developed with Protected Harvest and other environmental groups.

“Certain groups, like the NRDC and the World Wildlife Fund have realized that adversarial relationships aren’t working,” Ohmart said. “They are interested in working with instead of against.

“We are taking a chance in working with them,” he concluded. “But times are changing. We all have to take risks.”