SAC #32: Life in the Audit Lane: Retail driven audits schemes and the sustainability of New Zealand agriculture


Thursday, 29 March 2007, 4- 5:30pm


Room 6 N 2 in the Richardson Building (6th floor).


Chris Rosin, CSAFE & ARGOS



The auditing of 'good agricultural practice' is emerging as an important feature of farming in New Zealand. Such audits (ranging from organic certification to retailer initiated quality assurance programmes) are promoted as means of reassuring consumers that food and fibre products embody not only readily detected qualities (e.g., taste and appearance), but also such less tangible characteristics as desired social and environmental features of the production process (e.g., no forced labour and maintenance agroecosystem biodiversity). For countries like New Zealand that depend heavily on the ability to export agricultural products to distant markets, audit schemes become an important means to establish trust among consumers who are unable to maintain direct contact with producers. Furthermore, audits are seen as a potential mechanism through which market driven promotion of the sustainability of agricultural production can be made more explicit and concrete. As externally imposed adjudicators of appropriate farm management practice, however, such audits potentially threaten and challenge established understandings of good farming among farmers. Such challenges also potentially influence the relationships between farmers and local processing and exporting firms, which are often seen as complicit in the implementation of the audits. The ARGOS programme is currently examining the impact of varying audit requirements in the New Zealand kiwifruit, sheep/beef and dairy sectors. Using data from a recent set of qualitative interviews with over 100 participating farmers, I will discuss the processes through which audit schemes are unequally incorporated within the accepted practices of these farmers. Among the more important differences in response are those associated with the distinct context of production in the three sectors examined.

About the Speaker

Chris Rosin is a Research Fellow at CSAFE where his primary responsibility involves conducting social research with the ARGOS farm households. He has been involved with the ARGOS project for 2.5 years. His training is as a geographer and includes previous research work examining the response of small-scale agriculturalists to changing economic conditions (vintners in Germany's Mosel Valley, coffee farmers in Costa Rica, yerba mate producers in Brazil and Paraguay) and the impact of this response on the agroecosystem.