both USDA inspectors and private certifying firms. Accreditation of certifiers is currently done by UEP executive officers with advice. Although consumer awareness of the UEP Approved label remains low, several retail chains have adopted policies of stocking only UEP-certified products. The result has been rapid and widespread compliance within the egg industry. In a personal communication, UEP President Gene Gregory reports that uptake was rapid, covering 80 percent of the industry within two years of adoption by the UEP Producer Committee, and participation has continued to increase in the intervening years.
The UEP’s effort is interesting in the present context because it represents an initiative undertaken by a producer organization, though as with GlobalGAP a significant additional incentive for participation in the standard accrues from its use as a requirement for entry into key retail markets. However, the fact that the standards process was begun by and remains controlled by producers shows that standards processes can be driven by any of several actors in the supply chain: producers, consumer-oriented NGOs (as in the case of free trade), or retailers (GlobalGAP). Thus, there are significant options beyond the case of government regulation to bring about means for addressing collective action or common-pool resource dilemmas.
Like the common-pool resource management schemes for fisheries, forests, and other classic instances of natural resource conservation, tripartite standards regimes can be effective nonstate means of soft law—the domain where social expectations and voluntary mechanisms create incentives and penalties that rival the power of governments for influencing human behavior. Ethics, understood to include the give-and-take of opinion and debate that creates and reinforces such expectations, is a crucial component of that process. If an ethically convincing rationale emerges linking conservation of herbicide effectiveness to sustainability, it could be possible for retailers or other actors within the food and agricultural products industries to put process standards in place that virtually force producers to comply. If producers not only come to understand that they would benefit from compliance with herbicide conservation strategies, but they should act collectively to do so, the opportunity for effecting a tripartite standards regime to bring this about might well arise within the industry. In the spirit of democracy and participation, the latter approach is preferable.
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