Agriculture and Human Values

, Volume 29, Issue 1, pp 65–78 | Cite as

A tripartite standards regime analysis of the contested development of a sustainable agriculture standard

  • Maki Hatanaka
  • Jason Konefal
  • Douglas H. Constance


As concerns over the negative social and environmental impacts of industrial agriculture become more widespread, efforts to define and regulate sustainable agriculture have proliferated in the US. Whereas the USDA spearheaded previous efforts, today such efforts have largely shifted to Tripartite Standards Regimes (TSRs). Using a case study of the Leonardo Academy’s initiative to develop a US sustainable agriculture standard, this paper examines the standards-development process and efforts by agribusiness to influence the process. Specifically, we analyze how politics operate in seemingly “depoliticized” TSRs, and how agribusiness and the USDA use “framing practices” and procedural complaints to influence the standard-development process. We contend that although governance mechanisms are a potentially powerful tool for advocates of alternative agrifood, their efficacy may be constrained by science-based requirements, an agribusiness countermovement, and a captured state.


Agribusiness Governance Policy Sustainable agriculture Standards Social movements 



Accreditor association


American Standards Institution Initiative


Accreditation organization


Certification body


International Accreditation Forum


International Organization for Standardization


Scientific certification systems


Standard-development organization


Social movement organizations


Tripartite standards regime


United States Department of Agriculture


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maki Hatanaka
    • 1
  • Jason Konefal
    • 1
  • Douglas H. Constance
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of SociologySam Houston State UniversityHuntsvilleUSA

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