For Immediate Release - June 22, 2011

Massachusetts Agriculture Officials Announce Commonwealth Quality Program (CQP) Standards for Forest-Based Products

Conservation organizations and local businesses sign on to support program

ORANGE - June 22, 2011 - The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR) today announced standards developed for forest-based businesses under the state's Commonwealth Quality Program (CQP), which sets standards for sustainable practices and helps consumers identify Massachusetts-made agricultural products. This new state initiative, which touts both geographic and advanced sustainability requirements for its participants, was designed to help consumers identify high-quality Massachusetts products that are responsibly produced, harvested and processed.

"From fruits and vegetables to wood-based goods, the Commonwealth Quality Program ensures that all Massachusetts residents have access to the finest products our state has to offer," said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Richard K. Sullivan Jr., whose office includes DAR.

Gathered at Heyes Forest Products in Orange, state environmental, agricultural and forestry officials also announced the first forest-based businesses that qualify to use the label. Certified businesses manufacture a wide range of popular consumer and trade products, including flooring, furniture, and lumber.

"Forest products have always been part of a rich, diverse agricultural history in Massachusetts," said DAR Commissioner Scott J. Soares. "Commonwealth Quality provides consumers an assurance that they are receiving a product that was harvested and manufactured in Massachusetts using sustainable practices that promote responsible land management."

The CQP forestry program establishes a clearly defined set of standards based on the combination of the Massachusetts Forest Cutting Practices Act and industry best management practices pertaining to wetland and wildlife protection, and water quality preservation for program participants.

This highly structured program and the collaboration behind it combine to produce significant improvements over traditional state label programs. As a result, consumers will be able to easily identify and enjoy certified products, knowing they are grown, harvested and processed in Massachusetts using methods that are safe and environmentally friendly.

"This program, with its emphasis on sound forest management practices, not only benefits the consumers of Massachusetts' wood products, but helps to assure all of our state's residents that they can have confidence we are promoting smart strategies in our conservation and forest stewardship responsibilities," said Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) Commissioner Edward Lambert.

The Service Forest Bureau within the DCR is responsible for approving all long-term management plans as well as reviewing, approving, and monitoring all cutting plans on private forest lands throughout the Commonwealth.

To be considered for eligibility, applicants must commit to a long-term forest management plan that improves the quality of the forest with each harvest. In order to ensure integrity throughout the supply chain, participants must also maintain a chain of custody for registered products.

"The future of farms and forests in Massachusetts depends on developing demand for our local products that are healthier, better for the environment and support our state's economy." said Fred Heyes, owner of Heyes Forest Products in Orange and a Commonwealth Quality advisor. "CQP businesses are committed to providing top-quality products that serve this purpose."

Environmental advocacy groups and land trust organizations from across the state were also present to announce their support of the program. Groups cite the program's emphasis on preserving forestland and local agriculture as primary reasons for backing the DAR initiative.

"Commonwealth Quality builds on the successes of locally grown agriculture and helps keep family farms viable," said Mass Audubon President Laura Johnson. "High-quality forestry in Massachusetts supports both local jobs and environmental protection, including the benefits for wildlife habitat, clean air, and water quality that forests provide."

Other groups that have pledged support of the CQP forestry program include the Appalachian Mountain Club, Franklin Land Trust, the Massachusetts Association of Conservation Commissions, the Massachusetts Land Trust Coalition, Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust, New England Forestry Foundation, North Quabbin Regional Landscape Partnership, The Trustees of the Reservations, and the Massachusetts Chapter of The Sierra Club.

"Locally grown wood products help support local foresters and harvesters, and encourage family forest owners to keep their forest as forest," said Wayne Klockner, executive director at The Nature Conservancy in Massachusetts. "The Nature Conservancy has long believed that the forest products economy is an important part of the conservation equation, and we see the Commonwealth Quality program as a useful strategy for sustainable forest resource management in Massachusetts."

For more information about the Commonwealth Quality Program, visit www.mass.gov/cqp.

Consumers can look for the seal of Commonwealth Quality on wood products at sawmills and other manufacturers throughout the state beginning in July. The following wood products producers are certified Commonwealth Quality businesses.

  • Amherst Woodworking, Northampton
  • Gurney's Sawmill, East Freetown
  • Heyes Forest Products, Orange
  • Specialty Wood Products, Cheshire
  • W. R. Robinson Lumber, Wheelwright

DAR logo DAR's mission is to ensure the long-term viability of local agriculture in Massachusetts. Through its four divisions -- Agricultural Development, Animal Health, Crop and Pest Services, and Technical Assistance -- the DAR strives to support, regulate and enhance the Commonwealth's agricultural community, working to promote economically and environmentally sound food safety and animal health measures, and fulfill agriculture's role in energy conservation and production. For more information, visit DAR's website at mass.gov/agr, and/or follow at twitter.com/MDARCommish.

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