Regardless of how it is defined, sustainability demands will continue to fall upon food producers.

Balling admitted he was talking to agriculturalists and PCAs, who differ greatly with the sustainability movement and some of the issues like global warming. The most often espoused counter to those who say agriculture lacks sustainability is the fact that third- and fourth-generation U.S. farmers still thrive on the same lands used by their predecessors.

“That is not the (sustainability) environment today,” Balling says.

There are the carbon footprints and things like AB 32, the California global warming mandate. It was passed by the legislature as a cornerstone of outgoing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s political legacy. Business interests tried to neuter it on Nov. 2, but failed to stop it.

Balling says AB 32 will drive companies out of California with the goal of turning back the state’s carbon footprint to 1990 levels.

Food suppliers like Del Monte are swamped with questionnaires from buyers asking everything from how crops are grown to what companies do with waste. They even ask what charities companies support. That is about as far from the turn row as you can get, yet it may determine if a wholesaler or retailers buys a farmer’s crop from a processor like Del Monte.

People want know how “green” are companies, said Balling.

Del Monte has hired a sustainability manager to figure that out.